31 July 2007

[design] I Has Accomplishments!

886. In conjunction with this posting, which is a basic exploration of my skill set, herewith an exploration of my modest record of accomplishments.

When I settled on graphic design as the Thing I Wanted To Do When I Grew Up, I knew that breaking into the field would be a bit tough. I am still not at the place I want to be, however, that's not the same as saying that I've not achieved anything. 

What is that someone once said–the difference between a saint and a sinner is that the saint didn't quit trying? Something like that.

And that's as maybe. One thing that has hit home again, and again, and again is that design isn't the sort of place for people who are bashful, or hide their lights under a bushel (I, inopportunely, have a sad tendency to do this; business proceeds as usual during alterations). On the other hand, one shouldn't exaggerate, I think; you want people to trust what you say.

Perforce and herewith are a list of the things I've done, the things I'm proudest of, in no particular order. 
  1. I am a content creator. Of the sites QuarkVsInDesign and Designorati, I have supplied a great deal of stuff–news, reviews, opinions. I know not how much weight these writings carry, but I understand it may not be world changing, but it's of a degree of importance–at least as much importance as to get commenters at both places calling me an Adobe shill. I must be doing something right!
  2. Adobe, Inc has quoted and linked my reviews for InDesign CS3 and InCopy CS3. I really must be doing something right!
  3. I haven't designed the range of logos I'd like to yet, but the two I did for the old-style Designorati departments (cartography and graphic design) I am quite proud of. I'll bring those out presently; this is more of a brainstorming session.
  4. I never thought I'd get my name in any book anywhere but as it happens, I have my name in one (Illustrator CS2 @ Work, by Pariah S. Burke, ISBN 978-0672328015) and am soon to have my name in another one (Pariah's upcoming Mastering InDesign CS3 from Wiley, ISBN 978-0470114568) as Technical Editor (which is, by the way, a fascinating thing to do and something I heartily recommend. If you can do this, do this). What a TE in a book like this does is take the author's manuscript, run the exercises and make sure everything works the way it should. In the case of the Illustrator book, I was also expected to catch as many style errors as I could; in the InDesign book, there was another editor on the team to do that. I'd love to do more editing–it's one of the most fulfilling things I've ever done. And, like I said, my name's in print!
  5. I have been a member of the Adobe Creative Suite 2 and Creative Suite 3 program. This was to provide me with copies of the software so that I could run the exercises in the two books, but while I was in the process I gave as much feedback as I could. It gave me a great insight into how a company like Adobe tries to iron all the bugs out. No software is perfect, even the finished produce, but Adobe does a mad thorough job.
  6. For the past three, going on four, years, I've been laying out and designing the quarterly for the local branch of the Sierra Club (the Oregon Chapter, Columbia Group). I hesitate to say newsletter, because that's always to me been a much more informal thing. The Columbia Overlook, on the other hand, is a 4-page broadsheet that has news, opinion, and upcoming events. I've had to cöordinate with editors, submitters, and people with photographs; I've run into many things I think your average news designer has, yet, on a different level; this is assuredly one part of my experience that I'd like to kick up to that mythical next level, if only I had the chance. Some of my issues can be downloaded from this link. I think I have it pretty tight and clean looking, and I'm proud not only that I can do this, but I can do this for a group I admire and whose aims I believe in.
  7. And how can I forget that I am now a semi-professional photographer? I was actually paid for the rights to one of my own favorite photos (see the blog header for an edited version of my downtown skyline) and am still flattered that someone liked it enough to buy the rights to it. I may have another side line...
Okay, I see that I have done some interesting things, but naturally, I want more. What would be ideal at this point is to think for a few minutes (at least) and decide for myself what things I want to do next, and how I can get the experience doing them...or the experience that would enable me to do them.

More exploration here to come.

[hk2007] The Penultimate Episode: it's Rock and Bonnie

885. Perforce, some thoughts.
  • I'm just amazed that Bonnie had made it this far. Given the field, though, it was an easy decision; Bonnie and Rock deserved to go forth more than Jen did.
  • We saw a different Bonnie this time. When Chef Ramsay took her into the other kitchen to have her practice chewing him out (which was a howl), it's amazing how quickly she slipped into the bitch-straw-boss persona. It was like she was waiting for that her whole life.
  • The task at had for Chef Ramsay was to really know who were the solid, true leaders there. Bonnie showed leadership we never thought she had. Rock and Jen had to be revved up to do it.
  • We wish Rock would have been the way he was during this phase also during the middle of the series, back when he was all 3rd-person on us and being the Sturm und Drang drama king. We're still not so impressed with Rock because of that.
  • We weren't that thrilled with Jen–we can't forget the way she kept backbiting Bonnie when Bonnie was getting under her skin–but we sympathize. In a "reality" competition like this, to be the last also-ran before the final has got to be heartbreaking–to go that far and have no chance at the prize to show for it. That's gotta hurt.
  • We absolutely love watching the next-to-last show, because this is shaping up to be tradition; putting the last three in rotation to handle expediting for part of the service. You really see, as Chef says, whether you run the kitchen or the kitchen runs you. Bonnie really shone here, Rock was 2nd, and Jen was weakest–the letting the crab spaghetti go out without the crab in it was a big hit. She recovered well, but she was definitely the weakest of the three.
  • One thing we find amusing but somewhat annoying is the way the contestants act surprised at something that has happened once each series so far. The final challenge is to give the finalist a one-night go at operating their own place. This happens by dividing the set in two and letting each chef equip, decorate, and set up an individual micro-restaurant. It's been this way with every show. So why are they so shocked when it happens? Presumably they've watched the show before, so this shouldn't be such an unexpected shock when the blind comes down for dramatic effect. But they always have this "what are the odds" look on their face. At least there wasn't any presser–last season's, which starred Virginia and Heather, seemed pretty artificial. Note to HK producers; we all suspect a lot of this is maybe a little more orchestrated than it looks, so try a little harder to keep some cliches out, k thx.
  • Hell's Kitchen is casting a fourth season, as crawls across the bottom of the screen repeatedly announced. Go to http://fox.com/hellskitchen and click on the link in the middle of the page that says "Casting" (it's right below the "Beyond Hell" logo) if you think you have what it takes.
  • Next episode...it's it, people. If you're as invested with this as we are, you can't wait to see what they do.
Oh, and before we move on, here's something of note: we won't have to wait another year to see new Chef Ramsay on American TV. FOX (the part of it that I like) is bringing a British staple, Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, to TV this fall. Skookum!

KN, if you've not heard of it before, takes The Ramsay Doctrine to new heights by going to restaurants in dire trouble and turning them round. Do a search on YouTube for Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, and you'll see clips from the BBC version. They show Chef as more than just a person who screams at people...he does a great deal of that, but you'll find out that he's a businessman who, bluntly put, knows what the hell (so to speak) he's doing, doing and is not afraid of giving strong medicine to people who very badly need it.

Clicky thee hence to see what all the fuss is gonna be about.

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27 July 2007

[my_happy] Attack of the 80's–Peter Gabriel and "Sledgehammer"

884. As usual, the theme is something I'm taking forward with me into a drudegery-filled weekend in order to make it a little more survivable. This time, the Peter of the Gabriel.

Like a whole lot of music consumers of the day, being raised at the time on top-40, I had a limited awareness of the British supergroup Genesis (my loss, since rectified). What I therefore had no way of knowing was of the huge role that Peter Gabriel had in it, nor his inimitable sense of artistic style, which is why when his song "Shock the Monkey" became popular and started to get heavy rotation on MTV. This was in 1982.

To this day I'm not sure I even like the song really. But I can't resist listening to it, even today. And if I see the video playing (which you can probably find on YouTube). I'll always pause to take the whole thing in.

In 1986, Gabriel broke a string of self-titled, avant-garde'ish solo albums with a sparely-designed album sparely titled: So. Compared to what I've heard of his previous effort, it was almost unabashedly commercial, but since Gabriel was as Gabriel did, it didn't sound like a sell-out; it was listenable but still had all the interesting quirks and influences and experimentation that made Peter Gabriel's music what it was.

The song "Sledgehammer" was an interesting bean, notably opening with the sound of a shakuhachi flute, then going right into a brass-heavy blues sound. The lyrics were fun and entendre-laden:
You could have a steam train/If you just laid down your track/You could have an aeroplane flying/If you'd bring your blue sky back...
But the real triumph of "Sledgehammer" was in video form. In the 1980's, having a good song was one thing; having a good song backed up by a killer video took you to the top. And "Sledgehammer" has a killer video:

Watch it, then, we'll discuss.

The joke of the video is that it took the lyrics and purified them. In each scene, the metaphoric content is represented literally, making it a sweet, fun, jokey sort of song. It couldn't be otherwise–the human/animation of the video had a power that couldn't be denied.

The power of the content arrested so much attention over that year that it seemed to be in heavy rotation on MTV nearly all that year, from the time it was released. In 1987, it garnered (according to Wikipedia):
...nine MTV Video Music Awards, a record which still stands as of 2007. It ranked at number four on MTV's 100 Greatest Music Videos Ever Made (1999). MTV later announced that "Sledgehammer" is the most played music video in the history of the station. "Sledgehammer" has also been declared to be MTV's number one animated video of all time.
It's impossible not to watch it, once you stumble on it. There's so much going on in every frame you want to go back and look at it again, just to make sure you don't miss anything.

Technically, the video's most obvious technique is "pixilation" (which must be distinguished from pixelation, which is what happens to a GIF or JPEG when you zoom in on it, or pixelization, which is how they obscure faces and logos on shirts on television). Pixilation is essentially an stop-motion technique in which your subject is a person; the person becomes the stop-motion puppet.

For many of the stills in the video, Gabriel had to lay prone, under a sheet of glass, over a process that took some 16 hours, according to the legend. Staging in this way explains quite a few visual aspects of the video, such as how in several animated scenes, Gabriel's face doesn't exactly look like it's quite being pulled by gravity in the traditional way, and how so many of the other stop-motion effects seem to magically maintain themselves in from of his face (the produce and the woodwork, most notably).

Many (if not all) the stop motion effects were done, in their pre-Wallace & Gromit days, by Ardman Animation, who, like Jim Blashfield, has a long and famous history with the music video. This would explain the familiarity of the stop-motion clay animation in the late-middle third of the video.

That's all for now.

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26 July 2007

[design] The Basic Building Blocks of a Skill Set

883. It's resume update time. Now, I don't know (yes, still, shameful that) how useful a traditional printed resume is for a graphic designer to have (no, I'm not in danger of losing any current employment...not as far as I know, anyway).

But at some point along the line, one will at least want to take out a bit of paper, at least as a starting point, and list out those things one knows how to use. I was just doing this and found out that I know a great deal–more than I thought. Here's a rough list:
  1. Adobe InDesign CS3, CS2, CS, and InDesign 2
  2. Adobe Photoshop CS3, CS2, CS, and Photoshop 7
  3. Adobe Illustrator CS3, Cs2, Cs, and Illustrator 8
  4. Adobe Flash CS3
  5. Adobe Dreamweaver CS3, Macromedia Dreamweaver MX 2004
  6. Adobe GoLive CS2
  7. Adobe Acrobat Professional 8 (and earlier)
  8. QuarkXPress 4 through 7
  9. PHP and MySQL, latest versions
  10. Mac OS X
  11. Windows XP
This bare list simply enumerates the applications I am familiar with. Some (such as InDesign and QuarkXPress) I consider myself experienced in; others less so; some I've run on a trail basis and got to know as well as I could.

A think I think is quite important these days is recognizing that the field is now shared by two electronic layout programs (I prefer the term "electronic layout" to desktop publishing or DTP), InDesign and the once-unassailable QuarkXPress. Having a foot in both worlds is very, very important–locally, from what I've seen, InDesign is in the ascendancy, but you will still find yourself running into QuarkXPress installations, and since most of the installed base is still at QuarkXPress version 4 and 5, the more you know about older versions of it, the better off you'll be. That last part-time gig I had ran QuarkXPress 6.5, for instance. 

I was lobbying for an upgrage to QuarkXPress 7 when that ended–regardless of what anyone thinks about XPress, it is upgradeworthy. It might not re-woo converted InDesignistas...but I digress.

Also, it must be said, I am in the middle of teaching myself some of this, particularly PHP and MySQL. Those are valuable tools to have–the "dynamic web page" isn't just a fancy term that gets thrown around, it's the trend. Just visit any well-done web page, any blog–even this one–is generated on-the-fly. It's getting to be all PHP, MySQL, and the databases who love them.

Since I am teaching myself these skills, I have a basic understanding in some of them. However, I have the gumption to hit the ground running with what I have and get it up to the level I need to very quickly (this is a current side-project of mine). Some of this I know better than other.

Next time, I'll be taking a closer look at my own experience. As it turns out, even though I don't have a current design gig right now, I've got some achievements that I wouldn't have had had I not gone to school for design–and some which I never thought I'd have, period.

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[hk2007] Two More Chefs Out

882. Just a few comments about the last episode:
  • To balance out when Melissa got a second chance, two had to leave this time. It was Julia and Josh. Julia was eliminated the traditional way, but Josh was a sight to behold.  Some might think that some of this is scripted behind the scenes, but this looked like Josh handed it to Chef Ramsay. Regardless of being yelled at (and, given his history, he should have known better), he was trying to prepare appetizers ahead. Even I know that in a restaurant that pretends to high culinary style, everything gets made to order–you know, like Jack in the Box, except it's risotto and spaghetti. Chef threw Josh out of the kitchen on the spot, with him leaving the building (duffel and all) in the middle of service. Not even an apres-elimination interview by the dumpster. Definitely the least-dignified exit of any HK contestant so far.
  • Yes, and Julia–plucky, resourceful, tenacious Julia–was elminated. We were sad, but hopped for joy when Chef Ramsay announced to her that he was going to foot the bill for her to go to culinary school. This is indeed significant–never before in the history of HK has Chef given anyone a lovely, career-making, parting gift. I think he wants to see her back for the fourth season. We're looking forward to that.
  • Rock stayed. We don't like Rock–he gets creepy mad when things go wrong with him, which is often, because he's wound tighter than a cheap watch. He's smart, but he's...and sorry to use such language here...a bit of an arsehole. 
  • Of the two ladies left, we're not too fond of Jen either–the way she starts to backbite when she gets irritated at someone is pathetic. Bonnie doesn't impress us too much either...but we've done enough hatin' for one post.
  • It was thrilling to see Julia and Jen meet Heather West, hard at work at her post running the Terra Rossa restaurant at RedRock resort. It suits her. She gave one bit of utter wisdom...be as good as you can with the people who went before you, because they'll be helping you out in the end.

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[design, photography] Photo Montage vs. Photo Collage

881. When you use a small-aperture digital camera (as I do) to get things you understand how sweet it would be to have a camera that did panoramic shots, or at least one that would make getting them less work.

In this photo I did a little while back:

I took more than six to eight separate shots and since I wanted one homogenous image I let Photoshop CS3's Photo Merge script do the heavy lifting. after a bit of experimentation and much cropping, I got something I liked very much.

There is something, though, to be said for photo collaging. This would be where I simply aligned the photos, not trying to merge or blend them together, letting it stand as a certain statement of the moment that the individual frames were snapped in.

The illustration on the right was nicked off an article at CreativePro.com. The photographer photo-collaged them together and got a truly compelling look at a ruined amphitheater that is as much artistic statement as it is photo record, thus, the picture itself has an impact that is both objective and subjective. This makes the illustration that much more interesting.

The article at CreativePro.com is right here, and makes for food for thought.

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25 July 2007

[or_politik] Ridenbaugh thinks Merkley's Gonna Go For It...

880. ...Running against Senator Faux Hatfield, that is.

Read all about it here.

Hell, if Jeff ran for US Senate, I just might volunteer. And I don't volunteer for nuffin!.

Get that breakaway-moderate suit ready, Gordon. You'll be needing it.

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[logo_design] DC Comics-Spot the Common Elements

878. Nicked from the Wikipedia article on DC Comics, which I stumbled onto for no reason I can quite recall:

I love logos, and I especially love displays like this one (I sent off a letter to KGW-TV asking if they'd had some kind of "logo history I could comment on, or at least images, but they haven't answered me yet. I'll try again soon). The viewing of a logo's change over the years has a lot to say about what the company who owns the logo sees as important elements to the image, as well as the sensitivity to company image history that the designer has.

When I see a display like this, I like to play a mental game I call "Spot The Common Elements". This is a fairly simple case, but here's what I come up with:
  1. The "footprint" is a circle. This is even true where the letters DC were moved outside the circle (as in the one where Superman occupies the circle).
  2. Bold treatment of the initials DC, that usually dominates the design.
  3. The initials remain mostly in the center.
  4. Consistent treatment of those letterforms: they are consistently serifed, then consistently sans serif.
  5. For the majority of the existence of the logo, the good ol' American 5-pointed star is somewhere in the design–usually more than once.
The most recent version, in the extreme lower right, is a masterpiece of updating while still respecting the past. The DC has lost its military 'blockiness' to become slick and modern, but still dominates the center of the design in a bold (and bold-faced) way; the letterforms seem futuristic but not in a way that's trying too hard–a way that probably won't look dated five or ten years from now.

The star has broken free from the design, taking the circle with it, to become a sort of cometary tail; but the abstracted circle and star still plays well with the letterforms, keeping unity. The old design was locked down, stable and contained–this one is alive and full of energy. The old one was completed; this one is unfinished, but in a very, very good way.

The Wikipedia author says to credit Brainchild Studios' Josh Beatman and DC's Joe Brunning for this one. Done and done.

A Word On Words: Names that Seem Redundant But Aren't...Well, Not Really

The astute student of DC Comics' history will probably not look upon the inclusion of the word "Comics" alongside the letters "DC" and get the same sort of feeling one gets from hearing terms like "ATM Machine" or "ABS brakes". Many others will.

It's a matter of public memory that the DC signified the publication Detective Comics, for many years the company's flagship publication and the print home of that legendary hero Batman. The company didn't start out that way, however: it existed under a number of names and was at first only informally known as DC Comics. It has since adopted this name as its official name.

However, in this context, the letters DC are not considered to stand for anything; they are an atom, a single token of meaning that pays homage to Detective Comics. It is therefore not a redundancy; it does not expand to "Detective Comics Comics". It remains inviolate, recalling the famous publication, but standing in only as a pointer.

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24 July 2007

[design, tech] Mapping the Bits

877. An underrated tool for creative expression is MSPaint. Seriously.

Remember (well, okay, not all of you, back when Macs were new and people were trying to press both Intels and Macs into service to create art? Certanly all of us remember the friendly "hello." we were all introduced to.

MacPaint (and its PC analogue, MSPaint) were (and are) bitmap editors. Hardly advanced and far from sophisticated, but with applied manipulation and diligence, you could come up with some rather surprising images. The number of surprisingly apt digital sketches were quite impressive.

Now, with programs such as Illustrator, Photoshop, PaintShop Pro, Corel DRAW!, &c, &c, artworks of stunning complexity and amazing effects can be performed. One might think that people are no longer trying much interesting in elementary bitmap editors. One would be wrong.

For instance, via YouTube (what isn't these days), here's nine minutes of drawing a Lamborghini in MSPaint, with a guitar-driven soundtrack:

And here's a fellow drawing a rather realistic-looking iPod (similar to the one I own):

And, just to push the envelope, here's someone doing the Mona Lisa:

The neat thing about MSPaint is it's a gimme that goeth with the Windows system. Macintosh, at least my version, actually had some nice bundled goodies but MacPaint has gone the way of something that is now extinct (though I think you can find an OS X port somewhere, I had one once, but it ran badly). For OS X users there is this nifty freeware program called Paintbrush, which has the same level of functionality.

This and a graphics tablet, and you can do some wicked cool things.

Update: There's also another free bitpusher, Seashore, for MacOS X. Free, has layers and some advanced effect features–it's like MSPaint or MacPaint to the next level. Based on the GIMP, but reduced to just the basics, Ma'am. Downside; does not save as BMP. Upsides:Saves as JPG, JPG2000, GIF, TIFF, and XGF (GIMP's native format)

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19 July 2007

[bloggage] Add A Label Cloud to Your New Blogger Blog...

876. Like I did, down there, on the right a bit.

It's easy but requires you to go under the HTML hood to do some pasting.

The upside; you don't have to understand the code you're pasting, and to tweak the colors, all you have to do is find the line that controls maximum and minimum color (the javascript will gradate the color from max for the label with the mostest to min for the label with the leastest.

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18 July 2007

[hk2007] Hell's Kitchen 2007.6 and 2007.7: Melissa's End, Et. Al.

875. It's another two-episode recap, and a bit of a realization; blogging HK has become more of a task than a joy.
I'm still going to watch, and I'm still going to remark, but blogging it–not so much maybe. I had hoped that I'd get more than just an increased number of hits from it, but then I realized that people who hit rarely read, and people who read never rewarded my work with a link or even a comment.
So, from here on out, while I'll be watching and getting excited with the other HK fans, I won't be trying to give my reactions to every little thing on it. There's obviously no need or call for it. Additionally, I do need to arrest this 'blog's slide away from matters I really wanted to focus on. Certainly the idea was design as well as what's interesting me in general, but there's too much of "what's interesting me in general", and not enough design commentary (not that too many people are particularly following that, either, alas. Maybe it's time for a (shudder) mission statement?).

The last two episodes: An Overview
  • Viewers a couple of weeks back will recall that nobody was eliminated and Melissa's backside was spared to give her another chance with the Blue team. It seemed a canny move on the Ramsay's part; remember, Melissa had come on early as though she was channelling Heather from last season. She had the toughness and the knowledge, but was so intent on making herself into a leader that she forgot how to operate with the team. Her last day with the team was predictably bad; she'd lost that mojo.
  • Rock is the drama queen nonpareil. When the Red team won the close challenge of episode 6 (the lobster challenge) he and the Blues had to sort out the recycling and he was doing that "internalizing anger" thing that I've seen too many people who are too impressed with themselves do. I found myself losing patience with that schtick. Naturally, that evening, when the dinner service occurred, the Blues screwed the pooch big time, because with that much negative energy, it's impossible to do right.
  • Julia...what can we say about her except that she's as close to flawless as anyone else there. Still, though, they give her the "just a short-order cook" disrespect. That's as maybe; Julia knows more about leadership and actually running a working kitchen than Jen or Bonnie do (or maybe ever will). That's why she's still there. She has a fantastic chance of getting to the final two. I'd be surprised if she didn't.
  • The Blue team is now down to Josh and Rock. Josh isn't that great of a cook; Rock takes himself too damn seriously. I think we probably won't be seeing any of the boys in the final two. The temperament to run a business simply is not there.
  • As far as the remaining surviving Reds, Jen and Bonnie, I'm not too thrilled with them. The way Jen started being dreadful to Bonnie during that last dinner service...unacceptable. Sure, you're competing, but in the gap, you're a team. Bonnie said Jen was acting like a bitch, and you know what...she was.
  • Given the two previous bullet points, I'd go so far to say that the restaurant is Julia's for the losing. Her biggest competition is herself.
  • The elimination of the last show was surprising. I thought that it was Bonnie's time to go; she's a wreck. Brad put himself up for elimination on the Blue side; Ramsay accepted that, surprisingly. Even though I thought that Ramsay's call was wrong, the way he explained it...as he always does...put it right in perspective. Brad was a hard worker, but that's not enough.
  • I also have to take back something I said earlier, about Ramsay favoring the ladies. The winners of the leftovers competition-the Blue team-really accomplished it with panache, and Ramsay rewarded them with a Chef VS Blues paintball session. Well played, and well-earned. But in the three-on-one competition, Ramsay creamed them. Is there anything that man can't do well?
The next week's episode looks suspenseful, but they all do; we see a hint of what looks like Chef Ramsay actually eliminating one of the chefs during the service. Also, with only 5 chefs left, it's time to merge the teams. This should be interesting.

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[liff] Ooopsie....

874. Ronald Reagan died today, so saith The Washington Post...

(via Democratic Underground, PageOneQ)

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17 July 2007

[world] What You Get If You Spell Evian Backwards

874. This must have been on people's minds for a while.

But lately, the subject of bottled water has just passed its tipping point, it'd seem. All of a sudden, a lot of people are talking about it.

Now, to us, the idea of buying your water in a bottle in a valley where just about everywhere you go, no matter what town you're in, tap water is not only safe and usually free but also rather tasty has always been silly, as a thing. We know tasty water; we were raised on well-water, so there's our bona-fides for you.

Now, that's not to say everywhere in the world that's true. We have acquaintances in Phoenix, for example, that say you're a fool to drink the tap water–and thier probably right, because the water there is hard enough you can bounce a ball off it, or so they say.

We found out some interesting and absurd facts in the article that seemed to have started the uproar, that one in Fast Company magazine (which we, as many others have said, will recommend you read and think hard about) called "Message in a Bottle", which will probably go down in history as an important turning point in the way people think about bottled water (or at least it ought to). Some of the interesting and absurd things we found out were:
  • While San Pellegrino water actually comes from a place called San Pellegrino, they have to truck in the gas that gives it the bubbly.
  • There is a 1-in-4 chance that the bottled Aquafina or Dasani you're drinking is just some tap water that got filtered.
  • About $1Bn worth of plastic makes it into the trash each year in the form of discarded plastic water bottles.
  • Poland Spring water is so popular that they have to truck in water from other springs just to fill the demand.
  • You can depend on Fiji Spring water to be safe for you–but half the population of Fiji can't depend on their local water not to make them sick.
  • The packaging and distribution of something the vast majority of us can get for free stresses an already-stressed environment due to the consumption of fossil fuels to make the packaging and to get it to us.
One thing that we've always known is that bottled water, venerated as being safe and healthful, is actually held to a lower standard for potability than the water coming out of your tap is. That's right. Bottled water may or may not have something in it and can still be marketed as fit for human consumption, whereas tap water may have one part per million of something that makes the pass into the bottle, and a health warning goes out.

Does that even seem sane? Not to us. We've scratched our heads at water with added this, that, or the other thing...extra oxygen in water? What? And when we saw mint water on sale on the shelves, we thought it was such a good idea, that we went home and made our own.

I'd be so bold as to say that if you insist on buying bottled water in Portland, you just don't know how good you have it.

Next time you want that old bottled water-taste, instead of buying a new bottle of Dasani (or whatever), fill your bottle from the tap. Your status-conscious friends won't know the difference, and your body certainly won't.

Your water bills pay for some of the best municipal water there is. Shouldn't you get a return on your investment? We know we do.

Or, put it this way: Ever wonder why people will pony up a few bucks for a bottle of water? Well, just spell Evian backwards, and you'll have your answer.

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[liff] How About That...?

872. There is no Starbucks in Starbuck, Washington.

I mean, what are the odds?

Up until now I didn't even know there was a Starbuck, Washington...

(via Ridenbaugh Press)

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[design] Designorati V3.0 In The Offing

871. Pariah Burke has been breaking the back of the new design and it's almost ready to go. I can't say anything about it just now, but it represents design evolution in all its best aspects.

The earlier D: was engaging, but the new version will take that up to the next level. Presentation even more intuitive, design even more informed by use and feedback. It's really quite exciting, and I'm thrilled to be a part of it.

Check in on Designorati on Wednesday, when it will be back, better than ever, with news, reviews, and attitudez.

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14 July 2007

[or_politik] What About Brian and Laurel?

870. The slowly unfolding story of the royal screw-over that Brian and Laurel Hines and their neighbors in the Salem Hills have to endure because of Measure 37 is a prima facie example of why M37 was a stupid idea and why it shouldn't have passed.

It's the tyranny of the majority in action.

Here we have everything the sorts of money that backs things like M37 kvetch and moan about: extra-judicial activism, dumb decision-making, playing politics with peoples' lives, health, and property values, big money and powerful connections. It's all in play here.

What about the Hineses? They're property owners too...don't they matter?

Groups like Oregonians in Action should stand up for them as well, if they expect me (as a voter, and, yes, a property-tax-paying property owner) to trust them or think of them as anything other than out-of-state-funded hypocrites.

I'm not, of course, holding my breath waiting for this to happen. It wasn't about any Oregonian's property rights to begin with: it was about greed and development. If you believe otherwise, you've been bamboozled. If you continue to buy the OIA line after reading the Hineses' story, then you have pudding for brains.

It really is that simple.

Until we can make uncritical credulity illegal, we can at least vote yes on Measure 49. In a perfect world, we could get rid of M37...but we don't live there, alas.

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13 July 2007

[net_life] 2 Days Left to Let the FCC Have It

869. Just a friendly reminder: Anybody who cares about the state of the 'net as it is today–where you can go get whatever's out there without anybody diverting you away from it if its not what they don't want you to see or carving a few more dollars out of your tailbone for something that was planted with your tax dollars–has just two more days to comment at the FCC.

No matter who you are, no matter what you believe, if you're wired, you have a stake in this.

So do the right thing. Comment.

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12 July 2007

[net_life] 3 Days Left To Tell It to The FCC

868. The public comment period on behalf of Net Neturality at the FCC is closing in three days. If you haven't told them your views yet, go and do it now–right now.

It's the right thing to do, and it only takes a few minutes to show support.

On the ol' tote board, which is divided into Congressional districts, there are 189 comments from my home district (OR-2, Blumenauer), but only 139 from OR-1 (Wu). What the hey, people? That's the most teched-up area Oregon has.

Personally, as a native Oregonian, I think we can do better than that.

C'mon people, it only takes a few minutes. Get on the stick and do the right thing. Comment in favor of Net Neutrality. (If you don't want to comment, at least sign the petition)

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[tech] iPhone Armageddon

867. I don't know about anyone else, but if I were an iPhone, I'd be running to hide.

Everyone's out to get me.

If they aren't killing me with a hammer, they're throwing me in a blender, siccing a pro wrestler on me, or just jacking me apart with a screwdriver.

Since I'm not an iPhone, I'll just thank my lucky stars and consider myself lucky; things could be worse.

You touch my iPod, though, you'll come back with a bloody stump. Depend on it.

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11 July 2007

[net_life] Net Neutrality: FCC Comment Period Closes in 4 Days...

866. Have you told your story yet?

Go do it now. It's the right thing to do.

It only takes a few minutes, yo.

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[liff] Why One Should Choose One's Friends With Care

865. Remember Brian Wells, that hapless pizza delivery driver who was apparently forced to rob banks last year about four years back with a time-bomb locked to his neck?

It's beginning to appear that the poor fellow was certainly feckless, but hardly as innocent as has been claimed. From the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
As the robbery plan crystallized, the group pulled Wells in. They told him the bomb would be fake, and, if arrested, he would claim that he was a hostage, authorities said. They said police would then let him go, and he would later collect some money.


About 2:15 p.m., Wells drove to a wooded lot near Rothstein's home on Peach Street in Erie. Rothstein, Barnes and Stockton confronted him there and Wells, for the first time, learned that the device was real.

He wrestled with the men and tried to scamper away, but one of them fired a gun, causing Wells to stop. They gave him an oddly shaped cane, which was actually a gun, and told him to use it if he found trouble at the bank.

The whole story can be found here, which is the stuff of prostitutes, conspiracy to murder for an inheritance...all great stuff for true crime buffs. Would have made a hell of a Chandler story.

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[type_design] Ginormous New NYT Signage has Portland Connection

864. Via the blog of Adobe's John Nack I peeped an unusual thing: a brand new signage on the new headquarters of The New York Times. The size of the type is about 15 feet; this computes to a Times Fraktur set in 10,116 point type, as all the typographical wags (including me) have pointed out.

Pentagram is apparently to blame for this amazing modern feat; moreover, according to this description of the thing on thier own 'blog (which must be seen to be believed), it is composed of over 300 individual "beak"-shaped aluminum tubes which slid over the ceramic rod curtains which cloak the building.

Most intriguing is the mention, by caption only, that the parts for the sign were made here, in Portland.

I'd sure like to talk to the people who work in this shop!

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10 July 2007

[design] I Am Quoted By Adobe. Yes, That Adobe

863. They love me, they really love me..

Well, they do like me. At least what I said about InDesign CS3; I really do believe it leads QuarkXPress now.

Peep me under the Designorati name here.

Update: They also web-published a remark I made about InCopy CS3. Which you should buy. The program, that is. And I stand by the comment as well.

Convenient links to my reviews at Designorati have been provided.

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09 July 2007

[net_life] It's Time to Save Net Neutrality-Again

862. I know. You'd of thought they'd paid attention the first time. But when it comes to money, honey, the big guys never have enough. They want more.

Net Neutrality means that one group of companies or individuals can't discriminate on the basis of content. It means that if there's something out there that I want to see on the net, I can go see it-and nobody can tell me no. It means I can attempt to build a business on the net.

The loss of Net Neutrality means that big players will eventually craft a two-(or more)tiered Internet–one for the content and users they like and who can afford it, and the rest for everyone else. No matter who you are or what you believe, I can't believe that you'd be down with someone else deciding what quality of service you have and making the decent stuff cost more–broadband isn't all that cheap and besides, if you're an American, your taxes planted the seed that created this big beautiful network of tubes. You at least deserve to use it without having someone tap you on the shoulder and ask for more money please.

The comment period to the FCC ends on 16 June–in five days. Go, right now, to this page as SaveTheInternet.com and tell your story. Mine's here. We must stand up and do what we can.

If you think it's all scare stories, take a look (cribbed directly from SaveTheInternet.com) at what telecoms have already done. Increase it. You like reading this, this, or even this (couldn't imagine why)? Do something now, speak the hell up, or this is your future:

Such corporate control of the Web would reduce your choices and stifle the spread of innovative and independent ideas that we've come to expect online. It would throw the digital revolution into reverse. Internet gatekeepers are already discriminating against Web sites and services they don't like:

  • In 2004, North Carolina ISP Madison River blocked their DSL customers from using any rival Web-based phone service.
  • In 2005, Canada's telephone giant Telus blocked customers from visiting a Web site sympathetic to the Telecommunications Workers Union during a contentious labor dispute.
  • Shaw, a major Canadian cable, internet, and telephone service company, intentionally downgrades the "quality and reliability" of competing Internet-phone services that their customers might choose -- driving customers to their own phone services not through better services, but by rigging the marketplace.
  • In April, Time Warner's AOL blocked all emails that mentioned www.dearaol.com -- an advocacy campaign opposing the company's pay-to-send e-mail scheme.
Now, go do the right thing. We haven't yet got 500 testimonies from Oregon; I should think the Silicon Forest can do better than that.

Now, for your matinee feature–brought to you by Net Neutrality.

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07 July 2007

[zeitgeist] I am all Oregon, Baby!

Welcome readers from UtterlyBoring, over in Bend. Feel free to comment–or if you have a question, ask away (and thanks for the tip).

861. It has not escaped my notice that a little quiz has been bopping about the blogging-o-sphere locally. The subject: How Oregon Are You?

Usually I shun taking such quizzes. Occasionally they are a little fun, but in the end they are typically based on someone else's perception of something we think we have in common but actually really don't–or at least, understand just differently enough that even though we all think we're on the same page, we actually aren't, or we're just using slightly different versions of the same alphabet.

Anyway, I'm not really trying to trash this quiz (especially in view of the tragic fate of the author...please, everyone, a moment of silence and then make the proper donation if you are so moved and can so afford), especially since it made a lot of people smile (me included) and was just made out for fun. It did make me think about what made "an Oregonian".

Especially in view of the fact that, despite the fact I was born in Oregon (Silverton, as I've before said), after two tries the best I could do was 88% (what did I get wrong, I wonder). Regardless, I do have an Oregon birth certificate, and that trumps all.

There are also "Oregonians" that I never "got". Gerry Frank, for instance. He's seems typically to be regarded as the quintessential Oregonian, even borrowing the name of a cherished Portland retail memory (M&F's "Friday Surprise") for his Oregonian column, but I can guaran-dang-tee you he never even soujourned for even a moment on my side of the tracks. I don't care who his family is; I just can't buy the idea of a fellow whose most signature literary achievement is the renowned How to Buy It, Find It, Eat It in...New York.

Yeah, I know...Meier & Frank heir, chief-of-staff to Mark Hatfield, and all that, but what he decidedly ain't is Oregonian Just Like Me™, and hardly the quentessential Oregonian. What business does an Oregon homie have getting to be an expert on the Big Smoke anyway? I mean, in those Pace picante sauce commericals, weren't the words "New York City" followed perforce by the phrase "Get a Rope"?

Okay, enough ranting. My point (and I do have one) is that there are many things that can qualify one as having that certain Oregonian something. Having grown up as a native-born (there are only fifteen of us: identify us for cool prizes!) there are a variety of things that I think you should be aware of and conversant on to be really Oregonian in my book. Since I have appointed myself arbiter, herewith, the list (not necessarily complete). You could really be an Oregonian if:
  1. You remember who Gene Brendler is.
  2. You watched Ramblin' Rod, no matter what age you are
  3. You or some family member appeared on Ramblin' Rod, no matter what age you are.
  4. You inveigled your parent(s) to buy Pop Shoppe pop because you saw it on Rambin' Rod.
  5. You know what Ramblin' Rod and Lars Larson have in common.
  6. You can name which TV stations the following personalities anchored for: Richard Ross, Pete Schulberg, Ivan Smith, Kathy Smith (no apparent relation), Bill Lagatutta, Bill O'Reilly (yes, that Bill O'Reilly), Robin Chapman, Tom McCall, Fred Jenkins, Rod Luck, Jim Bosley, Rick Meyers (no relation to Fred Meyer. Speaking of which...).
  7. You know what Fred G. Meyer's middle initial stood for.
  8. You knew that Freddy's was where you found things were "My-te-Fine".
  9. You remember than Fred Meyer once had a store on SW Morrison St in Downtown Portland.
  10. You understand why all Fred Meyer ads that aired during that time seemed to indicated that virtually nothing Fred Meyer advertised was sold at that Morrison Street Store
  11. You remember how the building that housed that Morrison Street store was levelled (this doesn't happen often in Oregon)
  12. You remember what sort of imported car Tom McCall stuffed his 6-foot-plus frame into during his tenure as Governor.
  13. You consider Tom McCall God. There's no passes on this one.
  14. You remember what Tom McCall did to make the beaches of Oregon open to everyone, all the time.
  15. You know that, in Oregon, signs that said "Ocean Beaches" was just Oregonian for "This way to the coast".
  16. You understand that the correct way to say Glisan is seen as incorrect, and the incorrect pronounciation is what everyone uses
  17. You have spent at least one (preferably more) camping holidays at Detroit Lake (or similar reservoirs in the Cascade foothills
  18. You remember when Bend had a population of about 15,000. Wasn't all that long ago.
  19. You know what they Round-Up in Pendleton each year.
  20. You have eaten frozen food products by Ore-Ida.
  21. You have had earnest discussions with someone east of the Cascades about what Oregon really is.
  22. You have visited Silver Falls State Park at least once.
  23. You have ridden a Cherriot...or know what one is.
  24. You know which Oregon town the "Cherry City" is...and why they call it that.
  25. You have watched at least one go of the Jerry Lewis Telethon on KPTV.
  26. You know what Vortex was (I'm not talking about the one down in SW Oregon).
  27. You know what the 80's one-hit-wonders Quarterflash was before they were Quarterflash.
  28. You know what the founders of Quarterflash went on to.
  29. You know where Mark Hatfield kicked off each election campaign (or maybe that was Packwood).
  30. You remember why "Trooper" Dick Curtis wanted to know where those two truckers were going with all that beer.
  31. You remember his extremely short-lived daytime talkshow on KOIN-TV.
  32. You remember where the Portland Sports Arena was. Bonus if you know what it was before it was that.
  33. You know who Frank Bonnema was.
  34. For that matter, you know who Victor Ives and Jimmy Hollister were, which radio station they worked for, which TV station they did a show for (and the characters thereon), and what style of comedy they did.
  35. You ever ate "jo-jos" bought in a roadside convenience store.
  36. You know there really is (was? what's become of her?) an Izzy's behind Izzy's Pizza and where Izzy's began.
  37. You have a Bi-Mart Membership card (I still have my original green paper card from 1981).
  38. You vistied OMSI while it was still in Washington Park (and still affordable).
  39. You saw a Tom Peterson's "Wake Up" commercial after midnight. Bonus here if you went down to Tom Peterson's in the middle of the night just to see if they weren't fooling about being open that late. Whether or not you were drunk when you did it doesn't matter, but it does make for an interesting story.
  40. If you ever noticed that the Humane Society seems to be out near the airport...of course, that might just be me.
  41. You remember what the shows "Evening" and "PM Magazine" were about
  42. You cringe whenever you hear someone going on, once again, about that damned exploding whale. Bonus points grudgingly awarded if you know who broke that story.
  43. You don't get bonus points if you know where the fellow who broke the story in number 38 works now, but I will say he has a fine morning radio show. You should listen.
  44. You know what KPOJ was during the 70s and 80s, when it was huge.
  45. You know where the call-sign KPOJ came from, and what the letters (except the K) stood for.
  46. You are aware of Mill-Ends Park, and why it became what it is today.
  47. You know what was in Tom McCall Waterfront Park before it was a park
  48. You know the elevation of Mount Hood within 100 feet without consulting a reference book.
  49. You remember when the Willamette ferries were for free.
  50. You know how to get to the Wheatland, Canby, and Buena Vista ferries.
  51. You ever had (or saw) a bumper-sticker that read "The Wheatland Ferry Does It For Free"
  52. You remember Yamhill County back when all they had out there was McMinnville.
  53. You remember that McMinnville's annual city fete is called "Turkey-rama".
  54. You remember when Western Oregon University was called "Oregon College of Education".
  55. You remember that OCE's campus paper was once called The Lamron...and why.
  56. You know the back way from Independence to Corvallis (actually, that is just me...I highly recommend it. It's pretty)
  57. You know what the huge blockhouse of Highway 99W at Adair Village (just north of Corvallis) used to contain.
  58. You remember how scandalous it was to have a case of Coors, and why you couldn't get it here.
  59. You remember how disappointed you were at finally tasting Coors, and thinking you'd of been better off with a six-pack of Blitz-Weinhard.
  60. You remember that Blitz-Weinhard was once "the beer here".
  61. You know what I mean when I say "Mossback" (hint-this list is highly mossback-centric).
  62. You're thankful that hops are once again plentiful along the state highways.
  63. You miss the smell of beer brewing next when you go to Powells.
  64. The words "Harbor Drive" mean anything to you.
  65. You ever said "Don't Californicate Oregon".
  66. You're sure that you'd love the Oregon Shakespearean Festival, if you'd ever get round to going.
  67. You've heard of "Drain, Oregon", and that's just fine. No need to actually visit (no hatin' on Drain, by the way).
  68. You know what and where the "D" River is, and think those kids up in Great Falls MT are just a teensy bit uppity. And wrong.
  69. When you go to Newport, whether or not you can visit the Oregon Coast Aquarium, you make sure you stop by the OSU Marine Science Center.
  70. You aren't as impressed by the various bouts of the "town" of Brothers being sold as the outside world is.
  71. You, every now and then, use Highway 99E to get to Salem, rather than I-5. Also a pretty drive.
  72. You know the correct pronunciation of "Gervais"
  73. You know the difference between "Eola" and "Ecola".
Wow. I didn't know I'd come up with such a big list.

Now you know what I mean when I say I think this is more than a little subjective. To me, however, the definition of an Oregonian would be someone, no matter where, they're from, that cherishes the special character of Oregon-no matter how you see it-and commits themselves, just like many of us do, to see that Oregon endures and Oregon, and not just some other place in the world.

Gotta run.

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05 July 2007

[my_happy] Attack of the 80's: Iva Davies and Icehouse

860. Once again, I'm going to show you what I'm taking with me into a dreary, drudge-job weekend to preserve the sanity.

In 1987, a certain Australian group hit the American pop charts in a big way, with the following video:

I give you (via YouTube) the 1987 international hit "Electric Blue", from the album Man of Colours, by the group Icehouse. Their history is interesting, in as much as they were a local Sydney band that made good, starting with spot-on covers of currently-popular artists such as Brian Eno.

The leader, Iva Davies, was classically-trained, and came to form a band called Flowers. After gaining a strong fan base around Sydney, they went international, changing thier name to after a popular single of theirs to avoid confusion with a similarly-named Scottish band; the album marking the change looks as though it was an album by Flowers called Icehouse...or maybe, because of the ambivalent weighting of the title and the band name on the album art, it was an album by Icehouse called Flowers.

Either way, it began the identity of the band which, much like Jeff Lynne and E.L.O., would essentially become, largely, a vehicle for the creative efforts of a single man. Throughout the history of Icehouse, Davies wrote the vast majority of Icehouse's output with some notable exceptions ("Electric Blue" was co written by John Oates...yes, that John Oates (who also provided guest-backing vocals).

Icehouse still exists today, as the rock-band creative front-end for Iva Davies, who has become something of a rock legend in the Great Southern Land; netting a neat handful of awards for such things as contributing to television and movie soundtracks (he collaborated on the Master and Commander movie), and recieving (as Icehouse) induction into the Australian Recording Industry Association Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2006. A musical polymath, he has performed with Sydney dance and symphony companies as well as written extensively for them (the stage show Berlin; the album The Berlin Tapes, as apropos).

But, about that video...yes, that is yet another '80s-style mullet (which, as a commenter over on YouTube noted, was both the best and the worst Aussie mullet ever). What really shines through is the casual fun that the rest of the band is having while the lead singer (Iva) seems to operate on another plane, though still connected with his band mates.

Particularly amusing is the way the sax-player hangs about, waiting for his time, and then gets busy.

And, of course, that cute young woman, staple of the 80's power-ballad video, there completely for show (of course, it's her eyes we're wondering if something's hiding behind...but she, like the lead singer, seems to be operating on another level from the rest of the players).

Still, it all unifies into a signature style that instantly dates it from the middle of the 1980's.

That all being said, Man of Colours is quite an enjoyable album. The current version is an Australian import, complete with five bonus tracks and two additional extended/dance mixes of the songs "Crazy" and "Electric Blue", both fine and listenable songs and reputedly their two biggest hits.

Man of Colours is also well-represented on YouTube, as is a great deal of Icehouse output. Do a search on YouTube for some 80's music deliciousness.

And that's all for this Attack of the 80's. Thanks for tuning in.

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04 July 2007

[type, design] A Typographic Fairy Tale?

858. Yes, a typographic fairy tale. From Mark Batty Publisher (typography has few better friends in print these days), comes the sweet tale of a little fairy made entirely of glyphs who has lost her magical left wing.

We follow her on her quest throught Garamond Forest, the Zentanar Gate, Futura City, and lastly Shelley Lake where she achieves the object of her quest. It is delightful and cute and really does teach typographic basics while you're not paying attention–there's even a "Where's Waldo"-style easter egg in.

Lest I give too much away up front, read me on it at Designorati here.

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[liff] We Celebrate the Fourth

857. Typically, since I've worked odd hours and unpredictable days, we celebrate some holidays, and some we let pass. The Fourth is one of those we typically let slide by, and cynicism aside, if it's about independence, if we actually celebrate that concept as well as the leaving of England by the Colonies, then me and The Wife™ should be able to pretty much do whatever the dang-hell we want and not have to apologize to anyone about it.

So, if we decide to stay home and relax and calm the kitties down and watch for stray ordnance from neighbors who think its their constitutional right to get exploding fireworks from Washington and set them off 10 feet away from our property line and our dry, dry back yard, then that's our right, I think.

In other bloggy news, I've set up flickr Zeitgeist in the sidebar, including the downtown skyline photo which was my first recent professional sale. Nifty.

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03 July 2007

[hk2007] Hell's Kitchen 2007.5: Melissa Loses Her Stuff, and the Blues Get It Together At Last

856 One of the ongoing tropes of Hell's Kitchen that long ago went deep into the dark territory of self-parody is the way the cast overstates things.

It seems almost every event on HK is happening "for the first time ever".

Almost every time El Ram has to make the elimination, he sighs as he says that "this is a difficult decision".

One gets the idea that they know how risible that all looks, and develop it as a self-knowing joke. Whatever the case, it's getting to be a regular effort here at the Station not to craft a drinking game out of it. We don't have the fortitude to keep from saything things like "The first time! Not again!" or "It's always a difficult decision for you, Gordon, innit?"

But this episode was actually quite full of real surprises; the meltdown of the Red team, the triumphant resurgence of the Blue team, and Melissa's bizarre behavior. Let's run it all down.

June Is Always The Best Month For Weddings

The whole epi centered on Hell's Kitchen's attempt to cater the wedding reception for rather cute couple (you know the kind, the kind where even hardened, seriously-cynical types can't help but say "awww" when they see 'em. Yes, they were that cute). The challenge involved the couple grading the two teams' dishes a day before the reception, and the service next day involved the actual wedding reception-dinner service.

But the epi, emotionally speaking, didn't so much revolve around the axis of the wedding so much as it did the axis of Melissa's bizarre behavior. Personally, we think she blew a fuse somewhere along the line and went a little insane. So, we'll look at it from that POV.

Melissa During the Challenge

The challenge involved the two teams coming up with dishes to offer the wedding couple to evaluate for inclusion in the reception dinner the next day. The men and the women were to go to a local supermarket, collect all the ingredients they'd need (with a time limit of 30 minutes and a budget of $100), and rush back to the restaurant to prepare the dishes in time for the couple's arrival for evaluation.

Melissa, somehow, right about here, got the strange idea that Chef Ramsay was looking specificially to her for Red team leadership, and she better step up. So, in the store, she began strawbossing.

It wasn't too bad there, but it was after they got back to the restaurant and began cooking that it really flowered. Melissa began barking out orders, telling her teammates not to ask each other for answers to questions and to go through her only. The result was plain to see at the testing: the main course was apparently supposed to be something to do with duck. During cooking, Melissa demanded that the duck breast go back in the oven to stay warm.

On service, Melissa kept telling her team and trying to convince Chef Ramsay that they shouldn't bring up their dish. After getting seriously under El Ram's skin, it was brought up. The Blues' offering–a perfectly cooked (and quite delicious-looking) rib eye steak. The Reds' offering.

A dry, overcooked duck breast, on a plate, served Babylon-5 style–all alone, in the dark.

Even for this show, that was gobstoppingly amazingly embarrassingly bad.

The men took the challenge (their first, and well-deserved) with a appetizer and main course, for a score of 2 to 1 (the Reds garnered the single point based on a fairly accomplished entree).
Winning their first challenge really galvanized the Blues–as did the reward for the win, a spa day. The Blues had been run ragged pretty much all series so far, and they ate that pampering up.

Melissa During the Punishment

The "punishment", such as it was, involved getting the restaurant ready for the wedding the next day.

Meet the wedding planner. Impeccably groomed, with a sober blue suit and a phone headset permanently implanted on his head, he was the reason gaydar was invented.

Enough said there, we think. As we said, this one's all about Melissa. And her descent into utter insanity continued, as she still thought that she was The One In Charge™, and kept badgering her teammates with unwelcome suggestions, ignored directions, and endless reminders that she was just there to help, so that maybe they could get done quicker. What was priceless about it all was the scenes of her teammates mocking her behind her back, rolling eyes, making faces. Melissa had become the fifth wheel, and everyone understood that–except her.

Her physical appearance during the show also showed a marked change. Hell's Kitchen chefs, for the way they're apparently run-to-death, don't always look thier freshest. But Melissa started to actually look haggard; her trademark abundant red hear was looking dissheveled, and a skin issue began to happen under her lower lip. It may have been acne, it's hard to say at the resolution our TV provides, but it grew worse and worse over the course of the show; by the time the dinner service happened, it was actually starting to look like a soul patch.

Melissa and the Dinner Service

Melissa's unhinged behavior continued into the dinner service next day. With some notable speedbumps, however, the dinner service was completed, and with aplomb–mostly provided by the Blue team. They were like a ballet in the kitchen mostly; all signal and very little noise.

The Red team, driven by Melissa's chemical imbalance, didn't just implode, they pretty much conusmed themselves. The dynamic boils down to Julia and Bonnie coalescing around the newly-strong Jen and working around Melissa. Jen's cool head and leadership was yet another surprise of the epi, a complete change from her wishy-washy and wan personality of previous epis.

The flagship error was the fault of Melissa. In a moment of inattention she ruined a crucial ingredient–a sauce–by upending it into the water bath it was in. She went immediately over to the Blue kitchen, trying to beg some of their sauce. Big mistake–she was sent straight back to the Red kitchen to whip some more up from scratch; had she used some of the Blues' supply, she would have left them with not enough to complete their orders.

An Elimination Like No Other-So Far

This being the strongest day ever for the Blues, the Reds were sent back to the dorm to nominate two of their own for the leaving. The nominees were Melissa (of course) and Bonnie–certainly she was on point tonight, but this was a late surge.

Chef Ramsay decided on Melissa...

...to join the Blue team. Once again, jaws dropped.

The reasoning on El Ram's part seemed to be that Melissa had been a strong performer up until now (we early on thought she was channeling the spririt of Heather West from Season Two) who deserved another chance, but the logic of putting her on the newly-strong and freshly-winning Blue team we frankly find a little inscrutable, although perhaps she will work differently with a group of strong personalities who finally know about working together.

This is going to set us up for a great deal of drama, as Melissa has not only alienated her old teammates but had already also rubbed the Blues the wrong way.

And we think we can expect that there will be not one, but two victims next week.

We shall stay tuned–and hope Melissa remembers that those medications she's supposed to be taken are for every day, not just when she feels like it.

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02 July 2007

[liff] The Places One Leaves Behind

855 It's interesting to see what happens in the places one once was.

Tonight, watching FOXified 12's 10 o'clock report, we experienced the fine surreality of watching a report about a crime that occurred in a place we lived...well, not so long ago.

At the corner of SE Flavel Drive and SE Lambert St (a stone's throw from that fascinating Elks lodge at SE 52nd and Flavel Street (there is a difference between Flavel Drive and Flavel Street, but I digress)) there is a two-story, twenty-unit apartment complex that we (meaning YT and The Wife™ and our kitties) from about 1996 or 7 through 2003-4 (it's featured in the Google maps piccy illustrating, or view through the mind of Google here). Back it was called the Lambert East, and was owned by a sweet old lady who lived out in Gresham.

Lambert East was never the sort of place where the elite would go, except on their way from there to there–but then this is Brentwood-Darlington, more famously known as Errol Heights, and even more famously known as Felony Flats. This area, from SE 52nd to SE 92nd, and from Duke Street south to the Multnomah-Clackamas county line, has always had a sketchy history, but not completely; there are many people in the area who tend to thier houses, but there are a lot of the poor "white (and these days, otherly-ethnic) trashy" sorts there too.

Older houses, streets without curbs, that sort of thing. In the city for years now, still feels like you're in the county.

Anyway, when me and The Wife heard that there was a shooting there yesterday night, it was a surreal experience. There was the apartments we were living in for several years, not really changed much (except for a toffed-up name (The Apartments at Pacific Crest)) and a new, clueless management company.

The people hadn't changed much–the fellow who owned the rifle which was discharged, Ed, actually quite a nice fellow if irascible, we got on quite well–he still lives there. It's his whole life. He'll probably die there eventually.

Living there made you realize that life on your end of the spectrum is, if not cheap, available to be had at a deep deep discount. Everybody is struggling a little (or a lot); you have (at least they were at the time) an aloof property managment company; your neighbors may or may not have firearms, your neighbors may or may not have deep substance abuse problems or just plain bizarre worldviews.

But their mostly okay people, who drink a bit too much (what are they going to do for fun–Higgins? Portland City Grill?) and then get stupid when they get a little too much alcohol in them.

It seems unreal when we look back and know that that's where we've been. We're different people now, but not essentially changed, and we can't help but have some sympathy for them. But for the grace of God, you might be there with them; for a long time, we were.

Don't ever think you're more human than the people you think you look down on.

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[tech] How I Turned $600 Worth of iPhone into $1.50 Worth of Junk

854 It was going to happen eventually. I'm just surprised it'd happened so fast:

Cringe-inducing, considering the cost.

What was even more interesting was the reactions from the people who disapproved of the movie maker doing that. Amazingly hostile. I'm thinking–he wants to destroy the iPhone? It's his money...

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