30 August 2010

[liff] The Tom Peterson Watch Takes Seattle, Part 1: MAX To Union Station

Of course, it wasn't all about the watch ... but I get a little bit ahead of meself.

Last week, me and The Wife" and me had a special wedding anniversary. Something special was called for. Trouble was, nobody told my income this.

So The Wife" got creative. Had to you might say. Our budget was (and is) something that was tighter than ... well, something that's very very tight and discouraging. But she hit on a plan: Train up, Greyhound back.

Up and back to where?

Why, New York-Alki, of course ... That City Up North ... Seattle.

As excited as I was about going to Seattle (my lifetime currently doesn't give out much travel) I was even more excited about going by train. I have never, not once in my life, been anywhere on Amtrak, and it always looked like some kind of fun.

We wanted to go train both ways, but the budget didn't stretch that far. Not just that though; taking a bus back allowed us more time to tromp through downtown Seattle - something the two of us experienced marrieds had never shared.

Oh, and just as an impartial observer, we have this dude in tow. He's attentive, always smiling, always has the correct time, and is usually out-of-focus in the pictures to follow. It's this guy:

Yes, it's Tom Peterson.

Let's get started.

The whole thing was an adventure in a certain way: just go with what we had on our backs, our shoulder bag/rucksack, and a minimal amount of toiletries. From where we lived, we struck out on the shoulder of SE 117th Avenue between SE Market and SE Stark, headed for Burnside and 122nd.

700 Block of SE 117th Avenue, looking North.

The walk wasn't as long as I thought it would be. Soon enough, with our homemade latte fortifying us, we arrived at the E 122nd Avenue MAX Station. The Wife" ducked into the Max Mart on the corner to get some more ice for the beverage, and I got the MAX tickets.

The E 122nd Avenue MAX Station. Blue Line Fever!

Tom's happy, And when Tom's happy, we're happy.

The plan at this point was take the Blue line to Gateway, transfer to the Green Line that would take us quite close enough to the front door of Union Station to meet our Amtrak Cascades. Adventure, my friends, is that much closer.

Tom enjoys the comfortable ride of TriMet's MAX. Right
background: the coolest bike-riding eastern European
Granny ever.

I want you all to observe the eastern-European-looking ol' lady there on the right. This is without question the coolest granny ever saw. She was a bike-ridin' granny. She was rocking one of those cheap-ass Magna 10-speeds from Target, and this was one of the older MAX cars, the one without the low floors. And if you know them Magna bikes, they aren't built for connoisseurs or anything even close to that, so they heavy. But his lady, man, when her stop came she just bucked that bike off that bucket, wasn't no thing.

Mad respect. Quintessentially Portland.

Riding in style & Portland Style.

Transferring to the Green line necessitated a wait & not a long one, but I kept communing with Tom as I fretted about the schedule (this is one of my secret superpowers, along with always knowing where North is). A bit hungry, and discovered that the little, bean and cheese burrito sold by the commuter kiosk was exactly what we needed. And we finished them just the moment the inbound Green line pulled in.

We were going the other way, of course. But I love
MAX signposts. Hey, who's that chick with the stripey
socks & looks like my kinda lady &

The day, last Tuesday it will be recalled, was fine in Portland and was on its way into the 90s again, though not quite yet. We were busy razzing the heat & for we would be on the Amtrak Cascades soon enough, and laughing at the heat in comfort (and going north anyway). And so we chatted, my honey and me, enjoying each other's company and loving the Portland scenery.

I've lived in Oregon all my life, and in Portland for (now) the majority of my adult life, and I never get tired of looking out at the window. Every trip anywhere is sightseeing, and just being in Oregon is nourishing. That's why a scene like this:

That boat, she's riding high. And how about that bridge
lineup? Tell you true, got that completely by accident ...
happy accident.

The grain ship was particularly fun to see, as it was riding high because it was starting to be filled, or at least prepping to be starting. Not too visible is the swarm of crewmembers on top making ready. A city with a working harbor is a thing of beauty, and that's a sure thing.

This was near the end of the first stage, as through the window in the distance, our intermediate destination hove into view. A PDX Classic.

Next stop - Union Station. The one and only.

To be continued.

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[type] Those 80's Fonts: 10 Blasts From The Past That Are Still Fresh

Today at CreativePro.com I found an article that displayed 10 fonts that are throroughly 80's ... but still seem as timeless as fashion's little black dress.

The article is here: http://www.creativepro.com/article/10-typefaces-80s.

The fonts are Century Old Style, Aldine 721 Light, ITC Clearface, Raleigh, Zapf Elliptical 711, ITC Eras Book, Eurostile, Frutiger 55 (Roman), ITC Italia Book, and ITC Friz Quadrata. Looking over them, I realized that, indeed that, though they are from the 80's, they really still stand up well.

The first four are straight-up good body type designs, that stand up well against and harmonize with the character I see in my go-to body type font, Garamond. They have a design that is happy and satisfies the eye while not being so floridly ornamental that the design filips also distract. What really got my attntion, though, was the way that Zapf Elliptical 711 echoes a great font for instructional books: Melior.

They're all nifty for body type, and could be just the thing if Garamond ever needs a rest.

The remainder of the list are more decorative and sans-serif. Eras Book is a wonderful, light alternative to Eras Bold which, while is not over used, tends to get used too much when it gets used. Eurostile is a nifty, geometric, no-nonsense font that gave birth to Microgramma Extended, which is one of the fonts in the Star Trek universe (check out the classing Star Fleet Technical Manual). Frutiger 55 bears a strong resemblance to Myriad, but not close enough to be a nice change of pace. The last two are niftily-decorative, but don't overdo it.

Either they're timeless in their way, or fashion has come back round to them - either way, they look like font's I'd add to my arsenal, given the chance, to do modern-looking work today ... 30 years since 1980.

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28 August 2010

[liff] Seattle And The Mountain

Both Seattle and Portland have their signature skylines, featuring gorgeous, inspiring volcanoes.

In the case of Portland, of course, it's Wy'east (Mt. Hood). In the case of Seattle, if one really has to be told, it's Tahoma - Mt. Rainier.

Seattle and Mount Rainier, 2010
photo copyright SJK

One thing this Oregonian has never been unimpressed by is the sheer visual size of Rainier. Of course, there's the simple and inarguable fact that Rainier is simply a rather larger peak than Hood; 14,440 ft/4,392m vs. Hood's 11,249 feet/3,249m. Turns out there's just a little more than that, though.

There's a thing called visual prominence. One of the hallmarks of a memorable peak is not only that it's big but how head-and-shoulders about its surroundings it is. The difference between the peak's top altitude and the highest "col", ridge connecting it to its nearby surroundings - the difference between the highest high point and the highest low point adjacent to that mountain.

As it occurs, Rainier's geographical prominence is 13,211 feet. Not only is it big, it remarkably stands out from its surroundings. Comparing with our beautiful Wy'east, Mount Hoods prominence is a mere 7,706 feet - scarcely more than half. Meaning that despite Hood's height, its surroundings are also high - meaning it stands out less.

This is, of course, not to say that one is necessarily better, or that I'd rather wake up on a regular basis in Seattle; I'm a Portland kid until I assume room temperature. But it does explain why the first thing you get impressed with when you see Rainier from a distance is how freaking huge it seems. Not only is it big, but because of its high degree of prominence, it doesn't have much visual competition.

There is design lessons to be learned here. They're yours for the finding, though I may write about those later.

One more fun fact: The prominence of Rainier exceeds even that of the planet's second-highest peak - K2 - by just 22 feet.

Photo Location: Space Needle Observation Deck, Seattle, Washington

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26 August 2010

[liff] Metareferential In Seattle

The Wife™ and myself decided to celebrate a very important milestone in our lives by treating ourselves to a trip to That Town Up North, New York-Alki, and while we had to fit it into our microbudget and all a good time was had by the both of us and we wouldn't have, couldn't have, passed it up for the world.

As a foretaste of things to come, there a bit of meta here. A certain sight on the Seattle waterfront is de rigeur for visitors, 'tis probably the most loved photo visitors take.

This is not a photo of that; this is, rather, a photo of people taking a photo of it:

This, however is a photo of that thing:

… because if a popular landmark is a trophy bagged, then a photo of the mass of people taking a picture of it is, in turn, very metareferentially hilarious.

Location: 1st Avenue and Pike Street, Seattle.

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21 August 2010

[liff] Rules Of The Contest

This are the official Rules of the Contest.
  1. The contest rules apply only to the contest.
  2. The participants in the contest are contestants.
  3. Only one winner per contest after all participants have contested.
  4. The contest winner can enter any other contest, but not at the same time as this contest.
  5. There will be a runner up to the contest winner. The runner up may contest the contest's winning entry, contest the contest winner, and contest the contest rules.
  6. Pray to whatever gods there be.
  7. Contest losers may contest the contest, contest the contest rules, and contest the contest winner and runner up, but may only lodge one contestant contest. Additional contests will be accepted, but they will be contested until only one valid contest remains.
  8. Contested contestants' contests can be contested.
  9. Contest again … but with feeling.
  10. Submit all contest contests to the contest contest address on the back of the contest form.
  11. The first person who figures out where we left the contest form, wins.
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16 August 2010

[art] My Own Private Funny Pages

What I've run into as I've let myself become addicted to webcomics and more toons in general …

There was a time extremely extremely recently when I let whimsy take its course and began devouring every comic I could find. This is something I should have done years ago. I feel as though I'm making up for lost time.

I began reading webcomics just like a lot of other people did ... with the grandaddy of them all, Sluggy Freelance. Latterly I haven't kept up with ol' Sluggy, though. It's not any less good than it ever was, but tastes change, I suppose.

It's not you, Sluggy, it's me.

There are some that I currently follow with the faithfullness tho. And the short list:

  1. Tatsuya Ishida's Sinfest (http://www.sinfest.net). I love Ishida's drawing style, his characters, the way he makes everyone in its reality real and equal in a way, though still invested with the power we give them. The Devil is evil and tortures people in a hole in the ground; God is all-powerful and in the clouds; Buddha is serene. And there is just something I'm in love with about the characters of Slick and 'Nique. I'm not sure why I like Slick so much, but I'm pretty sure with 'Nique, it's her ass. Seriously, though, it's this divine comedy as played out in a webcomic, and that makes it more satisfying than you might otherwise think.
  2. Cyanide and Happiness (http://www.explosm.net/comics/) I'll admit it; I like humor in poor taste. But you have to do it just right. C&H will never win awards for technical merit or intellectual content, but there's something cathartic about being shocked the way they do it. C&H is mad popular, probably because they "go there". CONTENT WARNING: ADULT SUBJECTS AND OFFENSIVE HUMOR. USUALLY ON THE EDGE OF NSFW, GOES OVER THAT LINE PRETTY MUCH AT WILL.
  3. Two Lumps (http://www.twolumps.net) J. Grant and Mel Hynes understand teh kittehs. They do. And that's a sure way to my heart. Also, there's a hyperpatriot teabagger goldfish (yes, you read this right).
  4. XKCD (http://xkcd.com) Because if I don't read XKCD regularly, they'll take away my geek card. Also, I've never seen anyone get so much convincing art out of stick figures. Also, 'cos he's a smarter guy than me.
  5. Facebrooks (http://powpowcomics.com) Before you say "not another autobiographical web comic", check this out. The drawing style and the pitiless self-aware humor about it are what get me here. Brooks Williams' universe seems to be regarding itself with its own jaundiced eye while celebrating itself. The characters are honest about themselves.
  6. Robot Friday (http://www.robotfriday.com/), a "webcomic for creatives" by Tom Clemmons. Plenty of game geek and graphic artist in-jokes at the start, lately he's been showing of sketchbook comics (sketchbooks excite me) and even puts up videos of himself creating some of them, Nifty!
  7. Hereville (http://www.hereville.com/) Hereville isn't a continuing webcomic, but an exceptionally magical comic book by Amptoon and Alas A Blog!'s Barry Deutsch. I gushed about it when I first found it and I return to the site and reread it every now and then because it's this intellectually tasty blend of fantasy, reality, and religious culture and young-girl empowerment all wrapped up in a retelling of an ancient fairy-tale. It's far and away the most original thing I've seen in a long time, and the eyes devour Barry's artistic style which, in the end, just turns out to be bonus. When they talk about graphic novels/comics that show just what the comic form can do, Hereville is what they're talking about.
So, it's kind of a salad, what I like these days ... a generous bed of intellectual, topped with dollops of wry and dry humor and sprinkled with the bitter herb of tasteless and edgy humor.

Anyone have any suggestions of any other coolness we may check out? Comment away!

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06 August 2010

[liff] Who Needs Cherumple When We Have Dinglemunch's CakePie?

Latterly, the talk of the culinary world (or the "Believe it or Not" segment, anyway) is the "Cherumple": Charles Phoenix's pie-cake that combines cherry, pumpkin, and apple pies all lovingly enfolded within a spice-yellow-golden cake tomb.

"Nice effort", we say here in PDX. "You do, however, stand on the shoulders of giants."

Specifically, Nicole and Stan Kost. Stan, formerly of Milwaukie and now of Orangutang Orangeina Oronogo Missouri, was, as most Oregonians, ahead of the curve. He, too, noted with scholarly interest that culinary version of the terducken (as most of us did, via KGW's Live@7 who twitters via @TheSquare) and submitted a scholarly abstract of a highly successful experiment his wife performed sometime pack: The CakePie. And, in the interests of academic endeavour, near the end of the show, this was so exhibited for the delectation of all:

Now, my trained (and naturally cake-adoring) eye detects white cake, cherry frosting, and a cherry pie lovingly enfolded within.

Now, cake is the perfect food, and what is pie (as Jim Gaffigan says) but liquid cake? So, is this not doubly perfect?

I mean, foodies to your ovens at once!

Certainly, Charles Phoenix entertained us all and pushed the envelope. But I humbly suggest that without the Kost's diligent research and development, it may have all been for naught. Besides, what are you going to have if a cherumple is maybe just a little too much?

Gourmet magazine, you should do a bit on the CakePie mayhap.

See the full Duncan Hines at http://www.kgw.com/thesquare/upcoming-shows/How-did-you-make-money-growing-up-100082784.html . Don't be misled by the video title; that was the ShowQ, and @StephStricklen segues gracefully into the subject after reading viewer comments.

You're welcome, America!

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01 August 2010

[pdx] Amber Suburban PDX Sunset

Just now, out front, thought the bathroom window:

The Wife™ said the sun was orange. And it was.

This is sunset in outer east Portland. Both banal and sublime. Just like the people out here.

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[popcult] They Hated Patrick McGoohan After The Last Episode Of The Prisoner, Too.

Man, end one enigmatic series with an unsatisfying conclusion, and all of a sudden, they're all over you:

My very first tweet. I started this account just to let you know how disappointed I am in you.

That was just one of the "five meanest tweets" fired off at Damon Lindehof after the finalé of Lost.

You can read the rest here: http://blastr.com/2010/08/5-meanest-tweets-received.php

Disclosure: I never got the Lost habit. But the pop-cultural phenomenon was train-wreck fascinating.

When quirkly, popular shows end on an inscrutable note, fans can get ugly.

After the "Fall Out" episode of The Prisoner, it's said the Patrick McGoohan went into hiding for a short while. Out of necessity.

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[design] Guiding The Eye: What Comics And Graphic Design Have In Common

An author someone was reading to me once put it in the terms of a military campaign.

You always know where the invader will enter the page (at least in the western, English canon anyway): in the upper left. This is where they make their beachhead. This is where you begin your visual assault to bring them in.

Generally speaking, the battle for design that works is, to some degree, a battle for eyes, and to refine that point, an endeavor to guide the eye to greatest effect - something we call eyeflow. You have a small handful of conceptual tools available to you to guide the viewer's eye that you must use with knowledge and they're based on tried and true shared experience just as the military metaphor above is. After all, how do we know that the reader will start at the upper left in the most likely design paradigm?

Simple. We do it, too. That's how we know.

Tools that the designer have at hand include composition, hierarchy, which in turn have their roots in classic art - the play of light and shadow, the way you can induce the eye to view a design based on contrasts in size, light, dark, color intensity.

So, I guess I shouldn't be surprised that when an comic artist writes an article (via Scott McCloud) about how the reader's eye can be invited into the picture, then I should see some parallels between graphic design and cartoon composition.

The pivot on which much of it turns would appear to be that of hierarchy. It's just as one supposes, the visual import of items in a composition from most-important to least-important; the eye will look to the most visually-important thing, typically supported by the less-remarkable. Lines establish conceptual "arrows" that guide to the sight of interest; contrast between light and dark establish landing zones that the eyes go directly to. The contrasts create a sense of hierarchy by forcing the "star of the piece" up front and prominent; the structure of the other elements form visual roads which lead to the focal point.

And, more since there are two focal points in the art used as examples, the secondary directly supports the first.

The article, Primary & Secondary: A Tale of Two Focal Points, by Dresden Codak artist Aaron Diaz, is available (and ought to be read) at http://dresdencodak.tumblr.com/post/833149000/primary-secondary-a-tale-of-two-focal-points. And do bookmark.

As a suggestion of the common human API of the comic artist and the graphic artist, it does quite well, and will open the mind up a little bit to the suggestion of the common heritage that graphic design and comics have.

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