30 December 2010

[comix] Unicorns: Stabby When Angered

Best not to have a monster eat a unicorn in a previous strip, as the artist of Mister Woodles did. Because if you did, a guest artist, sufficiently friendly to unicorns, might fill in one day and even the score:

Go hither to see. http://www.misterwoodles.com/comic.php?comic=52.

Unicorns: Stabby when angered!

Read Smellabell while you're at it.

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25 December 2010

[logo] Myspace: There's No "There" There

Honestly, I don't see how I missed this one, which debuted about two months back, but maybe that's just a sign of how many of us have moved on.

I never was a passionate user of MySpace (heck, that remark implies I could have been one, when in reality, I was so far away from that it's what they used to term a "toll call"). Absolute and honest truth, there were friends that I could stay in touch with no other way. I actually moved on quite some time ago.

I do recognize, however, that the Myspace (it's no longer CamelCased) logo - taglined a place for friends - was rather stale. It seemed almost 1995ish. I'm usually of the opinion that some logo redesigns are, like endless "celebrity editions" of game shows, a sign of a media in decline. That's not to say that some redesigns are timely, and Myspace was, indeed, due for one. So, they turned on the clever: and here's what they got:

Myblank. Yep. They took one of the most recognizable brands of the first decade of the 21st century and made it a question straight out of Match Game '74. And the BETA? Nice. Very 2004.

In the middle of 2008, I've read, Facebook surpassed Myspace as the premier online social destination. Regardless of what one thinks about FB, it's not too hard to see why. FB not only gives you a simple way to stay connected with your peeps on line but with a clean design doesn't tax the eyes, and the fact that the technology is extensible - with guides out there as to how you can create your own FB apps - mean that FB can be as many things to as many people as developers have the gumption to create (as Zynga has somewhat appallingly proved).

Myspace is always just - Myspace. Here's me, and here's the bands I like. And my website design skills, which are ass: just try to read my text over the hideously eye-bending, low-contrast anime/rock band wallpaper I've used for my background.

I was a member of Myspace but, trust me, I never surfed it. There are some things even I won't do.

But the flat of it is best illustrated thusly. Gertrude Stein is famous for having said, of her childhood hometown, Oakland California, "There is no there, there". Critic Sonja Streuber holds that this is because when Stein went back there to find her childhood home, but could not do so; therefore her "there", her old house, was no longer there.

I would say the same about Myspace. Whatever reason I had for going there has gone, and nothing on that site can - or will, judging by the trend, replace it.

There is no there, there.

The new Myspace logo has that, and how.

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[liff] A Video For Those Who Are Conflicted About Being On Facebook

I'm not the only person in the world, I'm sure, who, given all the news and FUD about Facebook, is more than a little conflicted about having an account there.

And Mark Zuckerberg as Time's Person of the Year? Heh. Can't deny the man is a canny success, but all he did was provide us with a new way to pish our lives away on the computer. I did not need any help there - though I suppose teaching the populations of the less-developed countries how to do it might be considered something of an innovation.

To wit, this video. Done with a riff on Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues" video short, the video asks you to think, nothing more. It's not a preach, it's more of a warm, friendly rejoinder.

You know, the fellow might just have a point, there.

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24 December 2010

[design] Words As Emphatic Punctuation

The Wife™ spotted this lovely ad latterly:

Look at the title and squint a little.

Squinting is a very useful tool in your visual arsenal, by the by. If you're seeing what I'm trying to get you to see, you'll understand exactly why.

The designer, in a very deft touch, has pressed the words THE MUSICAL into double-service. not only is it tucked in very efficiently, it makes the impression that it's an exclaimation point. It's not merely BILLY ELLIOT!, nor is it merely BILLY ELLIOT THE MUSICAL, it's jointly and severally BILLY ELLIOT! THE MUSICAL, and this is done without using an actual exclamation point at all.

You register this even if you don't see it. You, yourself, might not be much a designer, but your subconscious eye catches all, and deep down inside you register that maybe this is something energetic and exciting.

This is called painting with type, mah peoples. This is what the man meant when he said that.

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[vw] Sam and the Art of VW Maintenance: Running the Freeways and Highways

There is a certain spark to driving a 72 VW Beetle from here to Salem.

Having been born in Silverton and growing up in Salem and points proximate, there is the taste of memory, a little bitter with irony. As in, crossing Silverton Road at Lancaster Drive in Salem, and realizing that, some years ago, I did the same thing only my late father was at the wheel, and remarking to The Wife™ for perhaps the twelfth time "On Silverton Road in a VW! Doesn't that bring back the memories!"

Bill Trafton's work stood us in its stead. The four-banger boxer engine, powering away, drove us without complaint and without a hassle from Home Base to Mom and Pop's in Salem, and back again on the freeway.

Freeway driving was approached with no small bit of apprehension. But, as I learned to finesse the little rebuilt engine in the way it was wanting, it became second-nature.

Being a child who grew up during the 80s, 65 miles-per-hour is plenty fast enough anywho.

And, being a 1972-tech engine running on 2010 fuel (including biodiesel whether we want it or not), the fuel economy will be perhaps never what I want. But it closes on 20 mpg on the freeway, and I guess that's okay for now - on an engine that will be dependable for a little while.

Must remember to check the oil level. This is to be a weekly thing, now.

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[liff] On Fugues And Interregna In Blog Posting on a Not-Terribly-Popular Blog

First, almost as a self-abnegating reflex, is a dislclaimer. This is not, though it may appear, one of those self-absorbed "sorry I haven't been posting for a while" posts, because there is nothing so amazingly arrogant - to me - than a post apologizing for not posting to a blog that hardly anybody reads.

If this chronicle has become anything, though, it's kind of become a laboratory for my mind. I try to straight-jacket it into the, as it turns out, very fuzzy rubric of graphic design.

I am still trying to find steady work in graphic design, for what that's worth. Anybody who's been impressed by my verbiage, I do layout, can use Quark XPress and InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator, and Dreamweaver; can write, and edit. Just sayin'. If you know any leads, do a brother a favor, thus-and-such, et-cet-er-AH.

The flat of it is, that I enjoy just the act of writing so very much that I really can't stop, and I guess I find this as performance art that I just can't quit doing. So, 20 days ago, more by accident than design, I stopped posting. And I'm looking at myself looking at what I've done, and letting everyone else see too, because, like I said, it's performance art, even for me.

Sometimes, you don't have a lot to say. I think the world would be a better place, or at least a not-so-worse place, if we didn't feel we had to share everything with everyone all the time. So, for a few days, I turned off the flow.

My refuge became my dead-tree diary, and I would read and record my experiences into my environment. It's hard to explain cogently, and sounds kind of corny, but sometimes I've felt, for the past few weeks, that I've taken everything in and projected it out into the world around me, and now I'm reading the echoes - like some sort of intellectual sonar.

I've gotten some interesting ideas out of it … I found some ideas flipped inside-out, and inverted, but not in that melodramatic way you sometimes hear of. There's no eureka! or ZOMG! moments.

So this gets projected into the aether, and I don't know how it will ping on back, but it will.

This was designed to make no sense ... but only after the fact.

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10 December 2010

[logo] Comedy Central ReLogoIzes - But Is It Teh Funnay?

What you see is what you get. Comedy Central is redesigning its logo, and you'll either love it or hate it, me thinks. Here's a version I have screenclipped from the page where you can see a preview of next season:

The approach is clean, dressed-down and simple. You can look at it in two ways: cool and corporate, or zany within the bounds.

That the graphic component resembles the copyright symbol, ©, would seem to be intentional; the logo pops up just where you'd expect to see it in the video - above and to the right of the content of interest. Here's the clip:

Comedy Central: This Is 2011
Funny JokesIt's Always Sunny in PhiladelphiaUgly Americans

The dry humor I find in keeping it real tightly designed but flipping the type in the word "central" works for me. But it depends on where one's sensibilities lie, I suppose; Paul Constant of the PMerc finds it rather nifty; the first commenter equates it with the Gap logo faux pas of a few months back.

I disagree there. The new Gap logo seemed thrown together in Word as WordArt; this identity gives me the feeling that, despite its simplicity, there was a good deal of care involved in settling on that font. One does not choose Gotham lightly.

Read Paul Constant's article on it here: http://blogtown.portlandmercury.com/BlogtownPDX/archives/2010/12/10/this-is-how-you-update-a-logo.

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[web comix] Smellabell Sings Her Arsenal Lullaby

Thing you need to know about little Ella is, she's one kick-butt girl. She knows, implicitly, that you take care of your loved ones; moreover, she knows that it your weapons and armor don't get the proper amount of rest, they won't perform so well for you:

View it bigly and comment by going here: http://smellabell.com/2010/12/10/arsenallullaby/, and get familiar with Smellabell, a comic by a really cool mommy down in the lower left corner who has this really cool daughter. If you don't smile … well, take your pulse, Tex. You probably daid!

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[VW] How Long Would You Wait To Recover YOUR Stolen VW Type 2?

Would you wait 36 years?

Submitted for your approval: Stolen in 1974 in Spokane, Washington; Recovered, 2010, Rancho Cucamonga, California.

For those less purist: the type 2 VW is what the rest of you all's call a VW Bus, VW Van or Microbus.

And so it goes.

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09 December 2010

[map design] When Map Designers Bicker

In the past, I've commented a little on the evolution of the design of TriMet's maps, particularly those of the MAX system as it becomes more complex over time. Rail network maps are a product, just like many other things, of their environment, particularly visual styles and fashion; my take is that most systems try to follow the lead set by the justly-famous London Tube Map, which has become iconic of its own system.

New Yorkers are, in their way, like us here in Portland; they like things the way they like them, and tampering with something considered by them iconic can be as disastrous as New Coke was. This probably also extends to the Subway map - a map of something uniquely New York.

The website Gothamist reported very recently on a panel held by the City Museum of New York where designers who've developed the subway map over the years held forth on what they thought was good and bad. They were, in fun way, most opinionated.
The panel of speakers included Massimo Vignelli, the revered designer of the 1972 subway map; cartographer John Tauranac; Paul Shaw (of the Helvetica documentary); and Eddie Jabour, inventor of KickMap and its iPhone app. The four men traded barbs, and went into detail about their own relationships with subway maps; Vignelli talked about the criticisms of his '72 map design, and noted he never perceived the map as a navigational tool. He also made an impassioned plea for sleek, modernist maps like there are in Europe, which Capital New York said
was "a League of Nations-like response in a WikiLeaks era."
The '72 map design referred to above can be seen here, courtesy of the blog IdeaOrange. It completely abandons the geographically-oriented subway route display in favor of the utterly-schematic, almost electronic-diagram modernist style pioneered by the London Underground and similarly-styled maps, and works very well indeed. Of the current style, a member of the panel savaged the style of having "bilious" colors and the lack of a service guide.

I guess there's just no pleasing some people.

But the subway is part of the identity of NYC, and no matter what you do, there's someone who's going to point and say "her? Oh, she's had work done, you know"

Myself, I'm a fan of the way Vignelli did things. After all, it is in the Museum of Modern Art.

H/T Atul 666, on the web at http://cyclotram.blogspot.com, twitter @brx0

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[type] In Case You Ever Wondered How To Say "Tschischold"?

Well, even if you haven't wondered, you'll find this bit of stuff interesting. It's a short list of how to pronounce various names of fonts and famous font artists, many of which are from Europe - typography is a global art, after all.

I was a little surprised. Though I had been correctly pronouncing Lubalin and Hermann Zapf for years, I had been mispronouncing Licko (Zusana Licko, the great co-founder of the Emigre house, is from eastern Europe) and Neutraface (pronounced litch-o and neu-TRA-face, respectively).

The rest of the list (Tschischold? Gesundheit!) yon hier (http://typophile.com/node/28051), wanderer.

H/T: Twitter friend @Sternooo (Mark Stern, designer and cartoonist)
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05 December 2010

[net] A Rising Facebook Meme Lifts All Cartoon Character Blogs

Any uptick in hits on my blog has been a cause for private celebration. Since I haven't yet figured out how to incite the national love affair with me I so richly deserve, it's been a bit like trying to induce lightning to strike - and happens about as often (there's a corollary to Murphy's Law which I've codified that essentially states that while it is true that if anything can go wrong it will go wrong at the most inopportune moment, it most certainly will not come when you actively attempt to induce it (but you won't keep it away permanently by inviting it)).

So, when it happens, it's a treat ... but the real triumph comes in finding out why.

For the last two or three days, I've been notching around two-three hundred hits a day, a welcome influx. I've deduced why. Apparently there's a Facebook meme in full effect, where everyone is replacing their profile pic with their favorite cartoon character. In as much as I am my own favorite cartoon character, I resisted the bandwagon for a while, then, realizing that I did quite adore Speed Racer (who had to duke it out with Tintin), I changed my Facebook avatar for a little bit to the illustration you see left.

After this I found out that this has something to do with an online awareness campaign about child abuse. Being against child abuse, I didn't really have a problem with that, though one would want to do something a little more material, I'd think.

But the real reason I did it was to marvel at the connectedness of things these days, and that the virtual sphere is just as chaotic in its way as the real. You see, the endless searches for "cartoon character" is pinging this off-the-cuff article like mad.

Traffic is still fun, though. So I'll just enjoy it and hope people stop by to read the rest.

On Facebook I'm http://www.facebook.com/samueljohnklein, and on Twitter I'm http://www.twitter.com/sjkpdx, of course.

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04 December 2010

[comix] Tintin At The Mountains Of Madness (spoof gallery)

Remember those simple days, of the simple stories?

Remember how Tintin and Capt. Haddock found themselves in R'lyeh?

Remember how Tintin beat Dr Herbert West at his own game?

And what happened to Snowy and the Thom(p)sons?


That's because it didn't really happen.

Well, it should have.

Viewen you hier: http://muzski.darkfolio.com/gallery/470268#3

Disturbing? You bet.

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02 December 2010

[VW] Sam and the Art of VW Maintenance: Ye Olde Generator Brushes

I, for one did not know that generator (Type 1's before 1973 or 74 or 75 or summat, didn't have alternators, they had generators) brushes wore out.

Perhaps that's because in the past, whenever any car I had had an alternator problem, it was just replace the alternator time. This is one of the simpler fixes - depending on car, of course - that the unskilled DIY mechanic can accomplish. On the 70s VW Dasher, the alternator was held to the engine block by a pin hinge and was spaced off by an arm down which a nut-n-bolt slid. swivel out the alternator far enough to get proper tension on the belt, tighten down ...   you're g-squared.

What the brushes do is quite important. The part that spins round in your gen/alt, the rotor, creates electric power because it's a collection of loops of wire whirling around in a stationary set of magnets (the stator). Because of The Way Things Work Around Here™, when you physically pass a wire past a magnet, the wire's cutting the lines of magnetic force cause a current to flow. Get enough of them whirring past a magnet fast enough and you have enough current to power a car, charge the battery, and run your trusty AM radio or what have you.

If you've got all this electric potential going on in the rotor you've got to get it out of there somehow. Therefore, from another point on the stator you run a short rattail of thick copper wire to a piece of metal that rides a set of contacts on the axle of the rotor, where you tap that current off. And that's where your brush is.

Now, it stands to reason that enough years of friction there will cause it to rub away (though this won't necessarily occur to you if you haven't ever taken a generator apart, even if you do know a thing or two about electricity and how it's produced). What you do know, however, is that after all that expen$ive work getting a new engine into the car, all of a sudden, you have a generator light that won't go out.

Glad we got us that new Schwab battery back when the old engine blew. It got me started and around town for a few days. And the generator light, to be fair didn't suddenly go out: it would pop on at idles, the go out when I revved, until one evening when it wouldn't go out any more no matter how much revving I was doing.

Back to Mechanic Bill's house. He nailed it pretty quick. Generator brushes shot, no more left to them. It was a $70 repair, but what Bill's crew fixes tends to stay fixed, and the generator light hasn't given me a problem since.

Now, we will have the horn (which won't) and the four-way flashers (which don't), and Bill pointed out to me and The Wife™ what parts to go looking for. Like a true old-school VW mechanic, he'll do the work and bill you fairly, but if you're out of bread and might be able to fix it yourself, he'll point the way.

Oh! Which reminds me! I mentioned to him that I was a fan of Muir's famous Idiot's Guide and he said he had an old copy he could let me keep, and he did, and I do. The meat and potatoes of the book are unchanged enough that the copy I now have - a 1982 edition - will serve me in good stead until I get a more modern printing (which has nifty background information). But that's a pretty sweet thing to do for a customer, give them such a valuable book and advice on top of the repair, which made it really worth the $70 - turning it from money from a tight budget spent into money invested in having a 72 VW Beetle that'll keep running and be dependable for a good long time (it is to be hoped!).

Here (http://www.reluctantmechanic.com/step-by-step/change_generator_brushes.php) is a very good description of what the tyro should go through in replacing the generator brushes, with apropos photos. Be enlightened!

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17 November 2010

[VW] Sam And The Art Of VW Maintenance: Fine Literature

I reintroduced myself to VW repair books over the weekend.

But I didn't stop at Chilton or Clymers. Oh, no, not there.

There's a book that some may have heard of. It has a great title. It's called How To Keep Your Volkswagen Alive: A Manual Of Step-by-Step Procedures for The Compleat Idiot. The author is John Muir ... not the famous Scottish-American naturalist, but a fellow in who worked for Lockheed back in the 60s, dropped out, moved to Taos, New Mexico, and began a hippie-fied life as a long-haired VW mechanic.

It must be added that, at this point, I happen to like hippies. They're nice people.

Muir's book is written in a conversational, straight-plain talking style, filled with verbiage that comes right out of the 60s counter culture: there are references to Eastern mysticism (especially warmly humorous in the section where the author tells you how to go about buying a Volksie (which is what Muir pretty much calls VWs throughout the book)), and when money is mentioned, it's usually expressed with the word bread.

But it's clear that Muir was sloppy in love with VWs, as all us lucky vintage VW owners are, and cared about his ride (and yours). And you can use mechanics if you want, but this book is aimed toward making you savvy and literate enough with your Vee Wee that you can, if you had to, fix it yourself. It's imbued with the sense of making you aware of the system that moves you, so you can give to it ... so it can keep giving back to you.

The illustrations, by the late Peter Aschwanden, come straight from the 60s underground comix vibe. They look as though R. Crumb could have drawn them if he'd dug car parts and evoke a sense of time and place with the merest glance. Being so drawn, of course, they pick out just what you want to know in a friendly yet precise way. It all looks a lot less scary via Peter's illustrations, and while I'm nowhere near competent enough to rebuild a VW air-cooled, much less change the oil just yet, it all makes a bit more sense and I'm a lot less scared of that engine.

It really was a simpler time.

Sadly, John Muir is no longer with us either - he died young, of a brain tumor, at age 59 in 1977. But I'm glad he left us what he did.

I'll be looking to put this one on my shelf.

You can find it at the library or Amazon.com. You know how to do teh Google.

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[VW] Sam And The Art Of VW Maintenance: Seeing Mechanic Bill

Stopped by Trafton's yesterday. It'd been 600 miles since the engine was replaced on the 72 VW Beetle, and it was time to get the valves adjusted and the oil changed apres-engine installation.

This service is a free after-installation service that Bill Trafton's shop provides. And it makes sense. You can't just install a rebuilt engine and say "see ya later, alligator" ... you have to take another look and make sure it's a happy engine. Bill's shop does this.

One of his employees did the work, and I got to watch a bit of it. Primarily the thing I wanted to see was the changing of the oil. This is something that just about anybody can do on most cars, or can be shown or taught, but on the old VW air-cooled engines, it's a whole 'nother thing. Type 1 engines, you see, didn't have an oil filter. The oil is strained through a metal screen in the bottom of the sump before being sent back up to the crankcase for another go-round.

This screen is held in place by a plate which is held in by seven bolts - one in the middle, six on the circumference. The literature I read says you do it thus: unbolt the big bolt in the center, which allows the oil to drain. Once drained, release the plate by taking off the outer bolts, remove the oil screen and the gaskets, clean the oil screen in solvent if necessary, reinstall the oil screen (with new gaskets), and reinstall the plate. Fill with SAE30.

It's a little more complex than replacing an oil filter, but not really that much more.

We were there for about 1 hour and tootled along out of there.

When it comes to VWs on the east side, Bill Trafton's my man.

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15 November 2010

[art] Mandala Monks In The Library, Part II

We took some time out from OryCon 32 on Friday afternoon to peep the mandala I mentioned in the previous-minus-one missive. It had come quite a way, well towards being finished.

I, sadly, forgot the camera and do not have pictures. A completed version of one can be found at this page, click on the image just to the left of the text and it will expand for you; also some pictures of a similar one under construction can be seen here. A picture of a similar mandala, produced for the Dalai Lama's visit to the British House of Commons in 2008, (which suggests some style variation is allowed) can be seen right; it's sourced from Wikipedia here.

I can say that the impression upon approaching the mandala is that it's remarkable just how much surface relief it has. The nearest visual analogue I can cite is the way that the tops of decorated sheet cakes you get from the Safeway look. There is a granular visual texture to everything, and the fact that they are creating small ridges, mounds, and piles of colored sand are obviously explicitly taken advantage of the the monk constructors to cause some design elements to lead the eye about and stand out somewhat as focal points.

As I mentioned above, it looks like some variation in execution is permitted. Left, find a photo clip of the interior; an eight-petaled design. Notice how the gradations in color from the center to the outside of the petals at NW,SW,NE, and SE are discrete bands of color. In our library's version, the monks have achieved a gradation worthy of Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator. It's truly impressive to see, and I'd love to know how it was done. Sadly, in as much as I'm not Buddhist nor a monk nor looking to be one, I should probably never find out. But it is suggestive of one of my favorite ideas, which is freedom within bounds and limits, of creativity amazingly unleashed which you are made to work within a canon of expression, which is utterly counter-intuitive but seems to be the way life works.

I've experienced it. But it defies easy explanation. And I digress.

When we got there, it was just before quitting time for the day, which was 5:30 PM. Four days into a five-day construction program, the mandala was largely complete, with just the outermost ring to be filled in. The circle of petal-like shapes just inside that were about 99 per cent completed.

The construction of the mandala depends of steady and exacting precision application of those colored powders by each of the monks. The tool for this is called a chakpur, which pictures I took can be seen in the entry two-back, and they're simply long metal funnels with a sawtoothed area on one side. The monk scoops up some colored sand from one of the bowls, strokes the chakpur with a metal stylus to make sure that sand has packed up against the applicator end, then lays the funnel against his forearm and goes to work. By lightly rapping the serrated surface back and forth, an almost waterlike stream of sand is deposited. The rest, I'm guessing, is practice and skill.

Once again, the mandala will remain for public viewing (the mere act of viewing seems to be held to impart a blessing to the viewer) until the 29th at noon, at which time the mandala will be ritualistically dismantled and the sands will be deposited in the Willamette (no worries, people, it's non-toxic. You think Buddhists would want to harm a fishy?) in order to release the compassion blessing to the world.

A good idea of what physical effort goes into creating a sand mandala can be seen at the Liveleak video here: http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=b42_1275511628. Six days condensed into about two minutes. Very enlightening, let's say.

Complete info, again, is here: http://www.multcolib.org/events/collins/mandala.html

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[art] Banksy At The Door of Number 10

How does Banksy do it? We'll never know, but I strongly suspect that Banksy is, in reality, the British PM.

Clicky to go to the original article
where the whole piccy can be escryed. May be NSFW,
YMMV, or if you clear the screen off real-quick-like when
the boss or any kids come in the room

The picture referenced, published by a British humor publication of sketchy rep, can only mean that, or that Banksy is more awesome than many of us assumed.

“Well of course it is embarrassing,” said a cabinet minister who asked not to be named,” but then again the value of the house has just gone up by about half a million pounds. Money is tight these days so, you know, and to be honest the Treasury is saying ‘well hang on a minute, lads – there might be something in this…’”

Well, we all have to make sensitive decisions these days.

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10 November 2010

[art] There's Tibetan Monks In The Library, Making A Mandala

I have had a passing interest in temporary art, sand paintings and the like, so when The Wife™ scryed that Tibetan monks were going to be creating a sand mandala on the 3rd Floor lobby of the Multnomah County Library's Central Branch, in downtown Portland, we just had to go see this.

Construction of the art began somwhere around 5 or 6:30 PM, and we ran a little behind. Whatever benediction was performed was over before we got there, but we didn't miss too awful much.

As things wore on, I realized that I was watching something I enjoy watching ... artists at work. Oddly, I didn't realize that before. Strange for me.

The opening moves for the mandala is to construct the layout skeleton on which the design will be "hung", and the first thing to do here is to make the construction lines. This is accomplished - on a square table - by something so mundane as snapping chalk lines. A great many of them, as it turned out. By the time they were moving on to laying in the design itself, the table was an absolute hash of fine chalk lines creating a most astoundingly-detailed grid.

On a table to one side sat the colors and their application tools:

... patiently awaiting their employ. The colored sands, we found, were pigmented with opaque watercolors, presumably non-toxic.

The layout tools, some of which lay next to the sand funnels:

... consisted of tools hardly any more complicated than what the average elementary schooler would use in geometry class. Rulers. Compasses. And that's about it. The white pencils will be used to lay in the actual design's lines; they look, for all the world, to be nothing more than white china markers.

A great number of patrons milled about the work at first. A photograph of the Dalai Lama occupied what looked to be an altar used for the opening blessing, in front of which were lined brass bowls filled with rice, incense sticks, and water with saffron strands in. Off in a corner, as with every travelling act, a table for vending merch.

But the center was occupied by the table upon which the design was being constructed, complete with four Buddhist monks, garbed in red robes with blue piping along the arm-holes. They allowed us to get unexpectedly close. Though they seemed to be aware of us, our presences - and our wordless insistances to get close enough to get good flash photography, from which nobody discouraged any of us - deterred them not at all.

This I understand. When I drew all the time, much more than now (and as much as I ought to be doing) I occasionally drew in public for people who were watching, and once in the zone, I didn't care who was watching. Me, the pencil, and that paper were the only things that mattered in the universe.

Drawing has always been a kind of meditative activity. And why not?

As the construction lines became numerous enough, the china pencils, rulers, and smaller compasses were pressed into service.

At the time I was curious as to how the design was going to be completed if they rubbed the chalk markings away; at the time, I didn't realize that the chalk marks were meant to support the white wax markings. The table did seem to hang on to the chalk though, and the lady who was the monk's "tour manager" (this being a fundraiser for their monastery, which is located in southern India) told us that the table's surface, essentially, had the "tooth" required, just like with paper, to hold the marks for as long as needed.

The table was square, but there was nothing ritualistic about its dimensions. Regular squares and circles make practical sense, and while the design can scale up and down a little, the size is just right to do the work.

It was at this point that I really began to understand what was going on with the chalk and pencil markings. The intricate construction grid is staring to be brushed away, but if one can look close enough in the web-resolution picture above, the details of the final design are beginning to emerge as curves are now laid in.

A bit of a better angle with still more curves laid in. The familiar mandala design is beginning to emerge. One more thing before we all had to leave the library, and that was the snapping of more chalk lines, and the laying out of big circles that will enclose the interior design.

With this, the mandala's design is starting to really come out from the chalk lines.

Four Tibetan monks, one to a quarter, working in concert, talking little, but in tune with each other, taking cues from one another, laying the foundation for an artwork that is the definition of ephemeral.

They'll be working on it for a few more days, however.

We will be trying to get by there by Thursday to see the progress. Stay tuned.

MultCoLib info, including the sponsoring organizations links, can be had here: http://www.multcolib.org/events/collins/mandala.html

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07 November 2010

[liff] Billyuns and Billyuns

Today, Carl Sagan would have been 76 years old, and we'd have to kill him and bury him to get him to spin in his grave over the way some things have been going on around here latterly.

Today therefore is worldwide Carl Sagan Day, in which we light a candle against the darkness of a demon-haunted world. Science, baby!

You can always celebrate as Sarah Mayhew (va the Bad Astronomer) does.

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[liff] It's Mahtab's Big Kid Cooking Show ... The Much Anticipated Episode 8

ZOMG, you guys ... it is, indeed, Mahtab's Big Kid Cooking Show, Episode 8, starring the cutest, smartest new celebrity chef out there, and her guest-chef, Gilbert.

Today it's fruit kebabs-delightful, healthful, kid-friendly, and delivered with only the panache that Mahtab herself can bring. Here you are:

It's true, hummus is something you can never say you really like until you've tried it, and the hummus-cracker-tomato idea sounds pretty delectable actually.

Go watch Mahtab, leave nifty comments for her on her YouTube video page, and encourage her. Passion is sweet and keen to watch, yes?

Four stars for this one.

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05 November 2010

[liff] I Heart Headlines: If They Find A Radioactive One HERE, Is That News?

Tell you what - If I'm looking for one of these, I'm not sure where I'd start but I'm sure this is probably where I'd end up:

Like, I know: where else are you gonna look for a radioactive Bugs? The 7 Eleven store?

Well, okay, maybe. But nowhere else!

Story at KGW.com.

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03 November 2010

[OR liff] The Election Comes To The Suburbs

No matter how the election turns out, the enduring memory will not be so much who wins or who loses (considering) but the effect, I think, on traffic.

Here's how we roll, out 122nd way.

The most popular drop site is the Midland Regional Library branch, on SE 122nd Avenue at Morrison Street. The libe itself is a wonder and a beauty, and an essential part of our lives. And, ideally located in what I like to think of as "downtown 122nd Avenue", near SE 122nd and Stark, it is near a major transit point.

A lot of people come and go through there, and know how to get there. So, it's a natural. And here's what you faced if you chose to run that gauntlet:

Southbound 122nd's lanes are directed into the library parking lot. Once in, you were directed westward through the lot, toward the end that abutted the park, where the permanently-installed ballot drop box is. You drop your ballots, and exit the lot, directed southbound again on 122nd. If you were actually visiting the library, as we were, you do a dance with your fellow cars in the stream angling for a parking space.

Yeah, it's a bottleneck and a bit of a snarl, but it's the price of democracy.

After concluding one's business at the libe, we go south on 122nd, turn a yewie as soon as safe and apparently-appropriate, and repair to the Burgerville at 122nd and Stark, assuming a space near the big curving window at the north end of the building and view the things that perforce ensue, which is a whole bunch of cars coming from the west on SE Stark Street and from the north on SE 122nd Avenue and place bets on whether or not some of the ensuing ensuage involves democratic fender-benders of the people.

It did not.

And so it goes.

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02 November 2010

[OR liff] I Heart Headlines: Election Day Traffic Report

Some headlines capture the zeitgeist in their hot little hands most perfectly. Oregonlive, today:

If you're voting, though ... good luck.

The full story at this link here.

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01 November 2010

[OR liff] Last Stop On The Pineapple Express

This is one of those things that's quintessentially Cascadian, if not outright Oregonian.

Quizzically, some things Oregon get oddly tropical names. Banana belt, for instance, which is typically taken to refer to the area of the coast from about Port Orford south, where the weather is warmer and milder than up the coast - the Oregon Riviera, if one wills. And, lately, due to the vicissitudes of Pacific Ocean influence, we have the Pineapple Express.

If you were out earlier today, you no doubt noticed that, in addition to the usual Oregon pall, the weather was remarkably warm. This is because, when certain things happen somehow, and La Nina has something to do with that, we get a stream of warm, wet air that fires up here at a quick pace directly from the vicinity of the Hawaiian Islands.

This satellite image, clipped from the KGW website just a little while ago, shows the Express rather clearly - it's the long, filmy stream of clouds straggling into Oregon and Washington from the vicinity of the "6:31 PM" banner. Just below and to the left of that is the approximate position of the Hawaiian Islands.

An even more amazing diagram of the route of the Express is here: http://zebu.uoregon.edu/humid.html.

We do do things a little different in Oregon. Here, a Maui Wowie isn't necessarily something you buy to get you high.

And when you get yourself outside on a November day in Oregon and the weather seems a bit wetter, know that it's from O'ahu with love.

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28 October 2010

[type] In Calligraphic Meditiation

Thank you, Chad Welch (http://twitter.com/chadwelch) for the following bit of calligraphic Zen:

(the image links to the video page on vimeo. The URL is http://vimeo.com/12733075. Me and vimeo have ... issues, let's say).

Doing calligraphy ... as I've been called upon to betimes provide ... does create a sort of sacred head-space in which some very positive inner contemplation can happen. You get close by watching Luca do it here. Just watch the letters form.

It's no wonder, to me anyway, that the best calligraphy from the middle ages came from Irish monks. That's the job I'd of gone for.

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[type] The Dying Art Of Handwriting?

Handwriting makes the news again.

According to the story in The Oregonian (at http://www.oregonlive.com/education/index.ssf/2010/10/most_college_students_print_as.html), fewer and fewer students are writing in cursive or cursive-style handwriting, most preferring to "print", or use a manuscript style. Citing a PSU professor, of a recent assignment which 17 essays were turned in, only two were written cursively.

I'm of a certain mind about why it's important to have some sort of handwriting style, or at least be unafraid to do so. The professor mentioned above, Richard Christen, has an interesting slant (so to speak) on it:
What most concerns Christen, who has studied the history of handwriting, is the loss of the aesthetic qualities of handwriting with its descent into cold print. Cursive writing in its flourishes and graceful strokes expresses an artistic beauty that goes beyond its utility and gives artistic experience to those who use it, he says. Students today "are not doing this kind of craftsmanship activity that they used to do on a daily basis," he says.
This is something that puts into words whatever I feel when I do do handwriting, which is something I attempt to do at least once a day in my diaries. I only partly do it to capture my days - I also do it because in these days when drawing inspiration is hard to come by, there's something ineffable about putting pen to paper and drawing letters - writing - that I just crave. It feels good. It's productive creation.

The next graf, if the previous graf did nothing to convince why handwriting is a good thing to do, should break through on practical considerations:
They also may be losing an edge in their learning. Researchers using magnetic resonance imaging to study brain activity say handwriting, whether print or cursive, engages more of the brain in learning and forming ideas.
So if you like having brain, if for no other reason, a good artistic handwriting style will commend itself to you.

All the rest is just aesthetic preference. I adore italic, such as the type promoted by the highly-underappreciated Fred Eager and the similar-but-subtly-different style promoted by Dubay and Getty. I don't much care for the cursive styles such as D'Nealian and Zaner-Bloser (these look very much like the schoolroom-cursive your teacher probably gave up on teaching you by about seventh-grade) but that doesn't mean they can't be made beautifully (and, as I said, it's strictly an aesthetic consideration after a certain point anyway).

But I would advocate that, whoever you are, it's never too late - or unnecessary - to learn cursive writing. It's a kind of art that is open to all, and all you have to do is get out a piece of paper and try it.

And if you do it well enough - trust me on this - people will admire you and compliment you. And when's the last time you got a compliment these days? Especially on art you've produced, hmmm? And you don't have to learn how to even draw stick figures for this, and who knows? Maybe you'll be the next Samuel Pepys.

Although the way they're talking about handwriting "going extinct" makes me feel like I'm one of those aboriginal tribes who have a dying language that only two or three elders speak.

So get out a piece of paper, find a handwriting style you can enjoy (there are many graphics on the intarweb that you can download and print) and just try something! It's good for you.

Though if you get Fred Eager's book, you'll get example and exercise sheets to copy. And that's invaluable.

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27 October 2010

[design] Perils Of Layout - Don't Be That Guy Who Doesn't Embed Fonts Edition

Placing PDFs for illustrations and ads in publications seems a natural solution. PDFs travel fairly well, come in a bunch of standards for almost any application, and - generally speaking - you don't have to worry about things like having fonts available on your system.

Well, generally speaking. If you're a designer or layout artist, you know that not all PDFs are created equal, or even whole (I relearned this lesson in the very last, major-moby-bigass layout project I just did, of which I'll probably regale y'all perforce. But that's for another missive). PDFs for ads, which typically have a typographical component (and some which are quite type-heavy), can provide a nasty, embarrassing pitfall.

What needs to happen is, your pro-design-type-guy-or-gal needs to load the thing into Acrobat and take a look at those fonts, and see if they're embedded or, if not, you have them on your system. And if you can, you do; if not, you try to have fonts as outlines, which are independent of whether or not you have the fonts installed.

And just what can happen if sufficient proofing doesn't occur? Well, via Typophile (http://typophile.com/node/75600) this can happen:

Yes, this apparently was published as is.

On the one hand, someone's butt probably got cooked real good over this onee.

On the other hand, though, it does bring unexpected life and interest to a type-heavy ad with a kind-of-tired-and-overused-display font on.

Though I imaging the advertiser wasn't going for Dada which, at last check, is still dead.

Click the link above for the whole picture. It's a hoot!

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23 October 2010

[teh funnay] I Heart Headlines: So, It's LOSE The Plastic And Glass Studs From The Beef Stick?

I do. I do love headlines. Writing a great one is an art. Somewhere between The Headline Of The Age and the rest, there is this odd twilight zone where dark humor reigns as the headline tries to abstract the content of an article down to a distilled succinctitude, and it winds up seeming to say something unexpected and unintentionally funny.

God knows that Leno's made a career of it.

It's not just in print tho. I found a great, Celine-Dion-based example of it here; and here's another one, from today's OregonLive:

Here you have an example of an exactitude of language being used to describe an accidentitude of product contamination, brought to you by the word studded, which is something crafters and decorators do intentionally. The impression I get is of a beef stick marketed to people who like shiny, decorated food.

"Oh, hey, Bob, big news here - remember that idea they had to sell the beef-sticks to the upscale consumer by decorating them with bits of plastic or glass? Turns out that's illegal. Yeah, who knew?"

Stud you later.

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20 October 2010

[OR liff] Underground Salem? I Hope There'll Be Tours.

Maybe the recently-announced imminent arrival of a Trader Joe's to Oregon's third (or maybe second) city and state capital caused a rent in the fabric of space and time, because, all of a sudden, interesting things are happening in little ol' Snailem.

That's gotta give 'em all vertigo down there. After all, anything more interesting than a Saturday kid's cartoon show must have been outlawed some time in the 60s. Being exciting in Salem was criminalized with a penalty of being forced to live there for the rest of your life.

Salem is not only Oregon's center of government, it's also Oregon's capital of banal. I know. I was born in Silverton and spent my teen growing-up years in Salem. It's imbued me with something of a acceptance of the mediocre and a stunted ambition. I'm not the only one who thinks this, as Brian Hines' ongoing and dead-center commentary about Salem Suckitude reveals (I admire Brian because he has the courage to stick with that beige burg whereas I did not, and left as soon as I could). I may have a mediocre life here in PDX but let me tell you, it's about ten times as interesting as a grand life in Salem could be, even now.

A story at KGW though suggests that Salem might have found something worth attending ... underground tunnels that once stretched from the downtown area to the State Pen? Dug by Chinese who were subsequently hounded out of town for being too exciting for the Salem mind?

In the meantime, Ritter and Maitland continue to trek into underground spaces with flashlights in hand, peering through whatever slight crack a door or wall may have, in the hope of finding more pieces of Salem's underground history.

They've made their way through spider webs and secret catacombs, finding an antique bank vault, an intact gold drop, a 1920s stairwell that goes to nowhere, a 1930s grocery drop with painted grocery aisles and lockers, a 1980s disco, a 1920s mural in what was once an underground cafe and a number of odd architectural finds.

The whole nine yards is at http://www.kgw.com/news/neighborhood-news/salem/Historians-explore-tunnels-beneath-Salem-105349828.html.

You go, Salem! Dare to be interesting!

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18 October 2010

[liff] That Said, La Céline is Apparently Amazing

I am a man of sophistication and chivalry so I must make up for my churl in the missive previous.

It has been argued to me that La Céline is actually amazing, and to bolster this argument, submitted for your approval, is the following video (F-bomb warning-as in F-ing amazing- was deployed multiple times in the viddy. It's an expression of appreciation when none else will do)

Amazing, no?

Why, I'm almost convinced!


Thank you, Vespabelle.

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[liff] It'll Take More Than That To Save Us From La Celine

Best headline of the day, from KGW's website:

If they're trying to save us from future concerts and albums, they'll have to go further than mere hospitalization.

And that's Oh, Snap! news for today.

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17 October 2010

[type] Made In Oregon - The Lower Case, From A to Z

My baby is really taking shape now, peoples. It's coming together as a TrueType font.

We're really cookin' now. Upper-case and numerals should fly by.

That little "X" is lookin' a little weak, but it'll do for now.

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[type] I Can Haz Z Naow - Made In Oregon

The lower case version of that last letter of the alfabet:

Zee. Zed. Omega by any other name. Puts the "Z" in "A to Z", as well as ZehnKatzen. Looks kind of like a "yogh" but isn't; looks like a fruity 3, but definitely is not that.


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16 October 2010

[type] the quick brown fo jump over the la dog - Made In Oregon

Work in progress continuing:

The iconic phrase, nearly in lace. Sounds like pidgin tho.

I love the way the Tweetdeck notifications keep showing up while I do screenshots. This is authentic, people!

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[type] dap! - Made In Oregon

Onomatopoea just is so much more fun when you design the type yourself.


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[tech] USB Typewriter - For That "Max Headroom" Look In Your Home Office

2520.You may or may not remember that wonderful series ABC TV imported back in the 80s, but even if you didn't, you certainly sense the iconic value of the name Max Headroom.

The series depicted a dystopian future in which TV networks ruled the world as an oligarchy, so there were heroes who were occasionally villains, villains who were occasionally heroes, and a world in which this all happened which sometimes didn't notice much.

To achieve the look of a "used, spit-out" future which was still very technologically advanced, sets used a lot of retro technology. Dramas played out on computer screens which were very technologically sexy (at least as we thought in the mid-80s) which seemed to be driven but old-fashioned typewriters and had an overall look which was very grimy and almost proto-steampunk.

Credit Roger Ebert (@ebertchicago) for injecting this one into a couple hundred thousand Twitter timelines (including mine), and they're probably getting hammered right now by curiosity-seekers, but there's a story on Etsy - USBTypewriter - that can give you that bizarre hybrid Max Headroom-Network 23 look to your hardware by providing you with a real mechanical typewriter that's been modded so that a USB plug will turn it into your actual computer keyboard. All input is provided for, F-keys apparently enabled through a toggle, and the enter/return key is actuated by ... what else ... returning the typewriter's carriage.

You can not only use this as a computer keyboard, but also - quaintly - the typewriters still type on old-fashioned paper.

This is accomplished through a sensor board and a small circuit board - which you can actually buy yourself so you can DIY it, which makes sense for those of us on a budget. Full mods from the shop can be quite expensive, but you just can't pick up these old typewriters for a couple of bucks at the Goodwill like you used to be able to. And, of course, there's the refurb ...

Anyway, true old-fashioned keyboards for your computer. Go Here:
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[type] U, V, And W - Made In Oregon

Three great letters that look great together.

The U was inspired by the N. The V and W were inspired by the overall feeling of the curves and lines I was working with throughout the font set; you might say they were influenced by the work that's come before.

More letters! More letters!

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[type] Just What Is "Hamburgevons"?

I feel like a magician about to reveal an epochal illusion, but a very slightly-asked question hereabouts is, just what is a hamburgevons anyway?

It is, and I kid you somewhat, a highly-charged typographer's WORD OF POWER.

The implications of hamburgevons cannot be underestimated. But just saying it isn't enough; actually, there's a trick of the tongue in which you make the moves to say hamburgevons but it comes out sounding like you're saying Eric Gill and you can do amazing typographical things, like eliminate Comic Sans and bestow serifs on deserving people. These tricks are taught at a libertine weekend retreat that's the typographers' equivalent of the famous Bohemian Grove and held at a secret place each year (because if I told you, then everyone would go there).

But that's all I can say. If I told you any more, I have it on very good imaginary authority that staff from Extensis would lead an assault on my person with elements from Emigré, ITC, and P22 making up the bulk of the strike team, with a special forces detachment from ATypI if I got a little too uppity.

They might take away my serifs, who knows?

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15 October 2010

[type] "hamburgevon" - Made In Oregon

Hamburgevon. As "made In Oregon" ...

Hamburgevon. It's a typographer thing, You wouldn't understand.

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14 October 2010

[type] Made In Oregon Font ... Filling In The Lower Case

The development of my "Made In Oregon" font, tentatively called "OregonMade", continues apace. Not very much longer, and I'll have a full upper and lower 26 as well as all the numerals.

Here's part of the work in progress:

And the lower case gets filled glyph by glyph.

This my friends is happy work.

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[liff] Tired Of All Those Extra Yellow Pages? Want To Opt Out?

Who isn't tired of them? You hardly need the number of phone books dropped off at your doorstep each year.

Via KGW TV's Live @ 7 Twitter account, @TheSquare (which is always turning up good stuff) we were introduced to what bills itself as an actual opt-out service for the endless stream of yellow pages directories that show up at our doors relentlessly each year. The Yellow Pages Association - a trade group - has a page at http://www.yellowpagesoptout.com and once there, entering your zip code into the box will provide you with a list of YPA members in the area and links to contact them to request an end to each one.

It doesn't do it automatically ... you still have to go to each one and fill out whatever form. That way if you still want, say, the Dex directory, you'll still get it. You are limited to the directory publishers that are members of the Association, but in this case I'd say half a loaf is better than none. And they say they're rolling out a new version of the website in 2011, so this is a work-in-progress sort of thing.

In my ZIP code it looks like I can't turn off the Hispanic yellow pages, as they have no contacts for opting out. But then, I don't recall ever getting one.

I'm somewhat cynical about it all, but I might give this a try - after all, it was only a matter of time before YP publishers realized that burying American neighborhoods under an ever-mounding pile of yellow books just didn't look very good, especially in areas where they take recycling seriously ... like here.

That's http://www.yellowpagesoptout.com, wanderer.

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