Friday, November 30

Helvetica


Please buy or rent the documentary Helvetica celebrating 50 years of the ubiquitous if somewhat bland typeface.

I'm a huge fan of the modernist movement, so unless you are German or Swiss you should not design typefaces*. However, Hermann Zapf is living proof that just being German doesn't guarantee your fonts are any good.

* British design genius Neville Brody appears in the film, but he is the exception that proves the rule.

Also in the documentary, Erik Spiekermann shows that Germans can actually be funny! Link to his blog

Part 2
Demonstrating how hack most US typographers are, Tobias Frere-Jones tells a shitty tale regarding letter-spacing on a dry cleaner's sign. He drops his fiancée into the story, and it seems totally manufactured to prove he is not asexual.

His partner in crime, (because bad design should be punished) Jonathan Hoefler rolls out some crap regarding typographic integrity in period films. Here's ALL you need to know about Hoefler.


He designed Hoefler Text. Alphabetically on most lists it comes after (the World's worst typeface) Hobo. It's the font list equivalent of living next to a pig farm. Doesn't matter how well crafted it is, it still stinks.

American typographer Morris Benton designed many great fonts, but he also drew Hobo and frankly that cancels out his whole body of work.

New tangent. If lead singer of The Time, Morris Day and his sidekick partner Jerome Benton became a celebrity couple, their portmanteau could be MorrisBenton. Wow! That's specialist. Am I the only person making references to typographic design and Prince side projects in one fell swoop?

Part 3
So as not to be accused of Anti-Americanism, David Carson is a genius. He designed Ray Gun in the 90's. It's unreadable typography challenged design sensibilities although David admits many of his so called daring type treatments were mistakes made at the proofing stage!

Best story from the Ray Gun years? One of the magazine writers submitted a bland, generic story about Bryan Ferry of Roxy Music fame. Carson found the text so boring that during the layout phase, he went down his whole font list to the alphabetical end. He changed and subsequently printed the article in Zapf Dingbats, the symbol-only font.

A dick move? For sure! As a fan of ballsy design I love this guy, however I married a writer, so let's keep it quiet shall we?

Monday, November 26

(Picture Free) Crazy Weekend Round Up

Friday: Went to the Post Office to mail some packages. The old lady behind the counter looked so glum, you'd think she'd won tickets to a Celine Dion concert.

It became my mission to make her smile, and as she stamped each of the five Customs slips her discontent grew.

Finally she said, "I'm such a jerk"
"Why?", I replied.
"I should have taken today off. I don't work weekends, Mondays or Tuesdays. I could have had a whole 6 days off."

I cajoled her with how good she was stamping my packages (not as patronizing as it sounds), she told me how impressed she was that I had Christmas stuff out of the way. Before you knew it we were metaphorically clinking cocktail glasses and her sullen depressing gloom was temporarily lifted.

Sunday: I could write something about each weekly trip we make to the supermarket. Overheard in the cereal aisle, "Organic. What do you think they mean by that?"

On our way out of the store we bumped into a familiar looking old woman. It was Post Office lady! She looked how you appear just before they shave off your hair in preparation for the electric chair. Didn't get a smile from her this time round. Bummer.

On our ride home we went down Butt-Nut Lane a.k.a, Springfield St. Somerville. These are the clowns who light up the street at Christmas like it's the runway at Logan. November 25 and the trailer sized manger is out already. I made a baby Jesus quip to Anne who pointed out that you "Don't put the baby in until Christmas."

I imagined the sheep saying "So we have to hang around for a whole month in this m-effing weather? Damn!", (one of the sheep was black). Actually, one of the shepherd/kings looked a lot like Bootsy Collins too, regaled in finest purple. I love Bootsy although his Christmas album is one of the worst I've ever heard (although not quite as bad as Billy Idol's).

Sunday night finished with a trip to Target. I went silly buying portable compartment dividers for my car - Christ I'm aging by the minute. Our trip was made all the brighter by an old curmudgeon plodding up and down the aisles looking to pick a fight with anyone who would listen to her profanity strewn voice. Love that.

Friday, November 23

One more for the Zipper

It's 2am the day after Thanksgiving, and I'm awake and out of bed. I had a dream that I was trying to enter a sporting event using a bootleg plastic zipper seal bag. The police tapped me on the shoulder to ask what kind of bag it was, and I collapsed like a house of cards. As a rule of thumb, never tell people stories about your dreams. As this post ably demonstrates, they are never as fantastical as you think. In my experience your story always ends with the other person making a non committal grunting noise coupled with a slow nod of the head.

The dream woke me up, but age kept me up. I've reached the age where I have to be careful what I eat before I go to sleep.


Yesterday being Thanksgiving, I ate and drank too much. See what the missus wrote about the Day here. Of course eating a second helping of salty, therefore delicious, stuffing at 8pm was bound to de-hydrate me. As was the extra beer. Dreaming of our upcoming Mexican trip, I bought Tecate on Wednesday night (on my way home from the gym of course).


I didn't help things by lazily NOT refilling my supa-fly Swiss humidifier. It gets so dry here in winter, that I need to actively turn our bedroom into a sauna. Only this new humidifier emits a cold vapor. Kind of like a shitty 80's pop video.


It's way more functional than last year's humidifier - the Japanese donut. But man was that thing stylish.

I'm slowly introducing old person items into my life. Last week a folding foot stool arrived in the mail. It's a shoddy wooden construction with a fake woolen top. It takes center stage next to the sofa when I watch Jeopardy on TV ... next to my blanket ... and puzzle books.

I'm so old.

Thursday, November 22

Blogworthy

Not really a word, but it has crept into our vocabulary lately.

Anne came up with the wonderful idea of attending a pop culture exhibition last weekend in Framingham. It was full of retro TV memorabilia, plus some Star Wars crap. The TV stuff wasn't really relevant to me. I grew up in another country. Also I have not seen a single Star Wars movie - something I wear like a badge of honor.

Anne's reply was that the place would be filled with "blogworthy nutjobs".

I hit back with, "So is the Medford Stop & Shop".

Kapow!
as Batman would say if I secretly did watch those American TV shows! Medford being closer than Framingham we went grocery shopping. And sure enough before we even set foot inside the store, the trip was a montage of fun. Inman Square meth-heads, Somerville douchebag drivers, and old white ladies dressed like Flava Flav. Once inside ... so many questions.

• Why do tool guys think it is OK to walk in front of my moving shopping cart?
• Why does a High School drop out think she can pack groceries better than me?
• Why is there always a line of check cashers at the bank on a Sunday morning?
• Why do all shopping carts now have to have coffee cup holders?
• Why haven't Ben & Jerry come out with a new flavor in 2 months?
• Why is organic product still a 'store within a store'?
• Do we really need a whole aisle of Christmas theme 5lb bags of M&Ms?
• Why does the person manning the 'self check out' area always seem to be worse than me at scanning problematical bar codes?

I'm done. Grumpy Old man I know. I'd prefer to be Jack Lemmon over Walter Matthau, and my wife is actually called Ann(e) Margaret.

Friday, November 16

You don't see that too often

Anne and I attended a charity event last night. It was very well organized with silent and live auctions, and lots of good people lending their time to a worthy cause.

There was a 3 piece band playing lite jazz arrangements of pop classics. Everybody seemed to love their musical noodling.

Better yet, the drummer was an older lady who looked like a thoroughly depressed Gena Rowlands.

A morose senior hitting the jazz skins! More hi-hat? Piss off.

Tuesday, November 13

De Doo Doo Doo De Da Da Da

We went to see The Police on Sunday night. Let me explain.

Friday night, our venerable friend Johnny e-mailed us to say he had tickets to Sunday's show. He's the best connected person I know. He gets to go to the Super Bowl, he's met Mr. T and I once saw Belinda Carlisle naked thanks to him.

Anyway. His e-mail mentions the tickets are "in a suite at the BankNorth Garden", but sadly he cannot go. I hate basketball, but I'd go watch the Celtics every night if it was from a suite like this. We virtually had the suite to ourselves. One other couple kept popping in and out. From our vantage point, the stage was straight in front at a 90° angle. Awesome.

Of course I'm too young to like The Police. My older sister liked them. Still, I knew most of the songs, and it appears that Sting still sings in the same key as 25 years ago.

Couldn't help but notice that all three of them have look-a-likes.

I don't care whether this story is true or just an urban legend. Stewart Copeland would scrawl "f - - - off" on his drum kit and imagine he was banging Sting's head while pounding out a beat.



Another Police story.
As a kid I thought the lyrics to "So Lonely", were "I feel Sue Lawley, I feel Sue Lawley"

Sue Lawley is/was a British newsreader. From the photo it should be quite obvious we are talking 1980s.





And another Police Story
1981. It's my eleventh birthday and I'm on a pedalo (that's English for Paddle Boat) in Corfu with my sister. Message in a Bottle had been a hit 2 years previous, but my sister was still listening to Reggatta de Blanc. A mile out to sea, we notice a bottle. With a message inside. My dear sister decides to jump into the sea to retrieve the bottle. Bottle retrieved she attempts to get back on the pedalo. She cannot. Instead she almost tips the damned boat over. I start crying. An 11 year old shouldn't start crying, but I'm a crappy swimmer, and the current is taking us away from the beach. Hours (probably exaggerating) later we make it back to shore with me pedalling while sister hangs on to the pedalo and does a pointless swimmers kicking motion. Happy Birthday to me. Message turns out to be some desperate Albanian, repressed by the Communist regime. Cheers Albania.

Sunday, November 11

Remembrance/Veterans' Day


The 11th Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month. An end to WWI.

My grandfather fought in WWII, and he recently passed away. Sorting through his things we found a bunch of photographs from his Army days.

I love this photo. I still cannot tell if this is a mirror or a window.

All better men than me.

That's poor

I'm watching the Man Utd vs Blackburn game.

David Bentley's name is spelled incorrectly on the back of his shirt.

Saturday, November 10

Polka Polka Polka


Bought these little babies on our way home from Magnolia's tonight. What is it about polka dots? You can put them on anything - babies, cars, dialysis machines. They are always adorable. They have no real connection to the accordion filled music of the same name.

Yay! It's Christmas


Shopping in my local Shaw's supermarket earlier today, I was bombarded with Christmas music. November 10 people. November 10.

Worse still it was Michael Bolton. Does anyone like that mullet haired wanker?

Tuesday, November 6

Cardigan Schmardigan


I bought this at Zara last month. I knew it wasn't really me, but sometimes you buy things hoping they will grow on you, or give you a dazzling new look.

It didn't.

Firstly, I have an aversion to anything touching my Adam's Apple, and secondly, my face is too fat to be framed by a high collar.


It makes me look like Ming the Merciless from Flash Gordon.


Last time I looked good in a cardigan? 1974.

Monday, November 5

Straight Outta Danvers


I was reading an article on Boston.com today about some kid in Danvers terrorizing his 'hood with loud rap music and a pimped out car.

Anyone with a passing knowledge of West Coast rap (I'm a white, middle aged, white collar guy), knows that 187 is police code for a homicide, and the original LA area code is 213.

The kid is Mr 5-0-7 (public nuisance). Representing 978. Liberty Tree Mall in the house.

Tosspot. For real.

Sunday, November 4

AR12


Quick observations regarding the new Amazing Race.

• Anne discussing the contestants "another round up of tools"
• Julia is of Spanish descent, so it's pronounced "hoo-lia". I'm going to pronounce all 'j's like this from now on.
• The goths used "Oh my goth", a split second before I did. Damn them.
• Nathan & Jennifer. Him cheater, her victim, they deserve each other.
• Who orders a taxi at an airport? The place is crawling with them.
• TK. Cool? Be wary of men with first names that are just initials.
• Raymond: "Who's your Daddy?" There is no better TV than an elderly Asian American dancing on a mat in rural Ireland.

Sunday isn't Sunday without the Amazing Race dramatic slo-mo just before commercial.

That's all.

Saturday, November 3

Day 6 - Going home


Thanks American Airlines. You canceled my flight. Now I won't get home until this evening.

Nice Nuts
Bought these on Monday, still hadn't finished them by Saturday.


Time to go Home
I went to Chaska Post Office to mail the items I couldn't take on the plane. Razors, scissors, air-horns, antique stool samples etc. etc. The polite woman who served me, looked at my envelope and said, "Hey, my Dad worked in Cambridge - he was the first black patrolman there in the 1950s." I swear this woman was paler than me. And I'm pale.

Same thing in the airport a few hours later. My waitress used to live on Boylston. Now she serves 8,000 calorie brownies to unsuspecting travelers.

Hello Senator

For those unfamiliar click here. Here's the bathroom. In case you are curious, once inside it's the 8th stall of nine.


Be patient with your parents
Preparing to fly from Minneapolis to Chicago. The woman in front of me was talking to her mom on her cell phone. I only heard her side of the conversation, but I got the picture.

I'm flying from Chicago to London.
They're 5 hours ahead.
Yes 6 hours ahead of Chicago, but you live in Long Island, and that's only 5 hours.
They changed their clocks last week.
Yes, I know we are changing ours tonight.
I don't know why they do theirs at a different time.
Yes it's confusing mom.
No I'll call you in the morning.
Your morning, my afternoon.
I'll be 5 hours ahead.
Yes, even with the clocks changing.

Finally
Extra stuff I never got round to writing or posting ...

Scariest moment of the trip
was in Arkansas. I was looking for the town of Zinc on my KKK search, and I turned down a country lane to Pyatt. I crossed a one lane bridge, over derelict train tracks (even Scooby Doo wouldn't have done this), and ended up in the middle of two dusty connecting streets of trailer homes. Everyone watched as I did a 3 point turn in my Illinois plated $25k rental car. Didn't stop to say hi.

We need more of these
A building shaped like a boat.


If you have to ask
You don't want to know.


Guess Who?


Guess What?
It's part of the Berlin wall turned into some nut-job religious artifact.


and they had a gift shop.


College Girls gone mild
A colleague went to college in Missouri. Here's a less than outrageous photo of her sorority building.


Serenity Now
More Precious moments


You should have seen the size of the net


Frenzy of Birds


If ever you find yourself in Webster, SD
(Between the months of May and October)


I don't care for country music.
With a few exceptions, 1975 is the cut off point for the good stuff, but out on the open road I got a sense for why it exists. Perhaps it could be quarantined so that only people within a 2 mile radius of a farm can listen to it?

No animation
How about an old time map with an animated red line moving past the places I visited? Unfortunately I'm just not that good. Click on the map to see an enlarged version of how I racked up 1,565 miles.

"In 1984 you either liked Bruce or you were gay"

Many years ago I asked a good friend if he liked Prince. That was his answer.

Adolescent homophobia aside, I wasn't much into Springsteen, Prince or any of the other "We Are The World" celebrities of that age either.

Nor was I alternatively cool.

I just wasn't into buying records. Off the top of my head I cannot think of a band that I would say "I really only like their early stuff." Besides, that sounds twattish. Although, I did buy Sheryl Crow's first record before she was famous, so that's two twattish statements in one paragraph.

Don't blame my parents. They ALWAYS had the radio on, and they were vinyl junkies, so growing up I got a decent music education.

In 1986, I went to Design College and in an attempt to "be creative", I began to read 'The Face'. A year later I was listening to anyone who sampled James Brown, going to The Hacienda and putting Acid in the front of any musical genre (thus debasing it).

Then I read an article about the canceled Black Album and I became somewhat obsessed with Prince.

I used the word somewhat instead of unashamedly in that last sentence. But at the time, there was no shame in liking Prince.

From 1986-88 Prince released Parade; recorded the double album Dream Factory, which morphed into the triple album Crystal Ball, and the female alter-ego disc Camille, all of which would be distilled into Sign 'O' The Times. He recorded, only to subsequently scrap The Black Album, before releasing LoveSexy. By any standard this was a phenomenal creative output.

Prince was always prolific. The Jamie Starr stuff with The Time and all of the other Vanity (sic) projects. But the outpouring of 86-88 coincided with the opening of Paisley Park on the outskirts of Minneapolis.

AND SO WE GET TO THE OTHER REASON FOR MY ROAD TRIP

Yesterday, with much anticipation, I drove to Chanhassen, home of Paisley Park Studios. This was as exciting as Graceland for me.


There's no sign, just this cool I.M. Pei style building. So many of my favorite records were recorded in there.

And unlike the Elvis House, I got to be awe struck all on my own!



There appears to be no Wi-Fi at Paisley Park. I once sat on a step in Euston, London and opened my laptop and got Jools Holland's Wi-Fi connection. Below, a screen-shot of my laptop from the Paisley Park Parking lot (terrible alliteration.)


When I was 18, I read "Prince: A Pop Life" by Dave Hill. It's the best biography I've ever read. This book was an education. It explained nuances, styles and influences and introduced me to a whole catalog of other artists.

Today, it's still the reason why I'll pick up a musician's biography. The chance that an author's writing could get me into another band or artist is compelling.

Do I still dig Prince? Sure I do. Only I'm no longer the hapless blank canvas I was in my teens. Distractions, distractions. The name change, the lack of QC, the Jehovah thing (I took a photo of that place too)


He still writes some great stuff, and he gets his own genre listing in my iTunes, but now he's one of a thousand artists in my collection.

These days the most interesting conversations are when friends remind you of a band you'd forgotten that you liked!

Blogs are vain. The easiest put down is, "Nobody gives a shit about your thoughts", and I play the role of the jaded malcontent way too many times. This week I've tried to overcome some of my own sensitivities, and for the most part it was fun.

I started this post with a quote, so I'll end with one. I'd seen Prince perform live dozens of times when I finally persuaded Anne to come with me. It was at Wembley Indoor Arena and it was his worst show ever.

As we walked out I turned to Anne and said, "What did you think?"

"I thought it would be funkier", she replied.

Me too darling.

Friday, November 2

Day 5 - Wahpeton to Chaska

Mother-in-Law Joke
Last year over Thanksgiving, Anne and I were in Las Vegas with her parents. We were driving to the Gold Coast when I made my Mother-in-Law giggle with this one.

What's a Shih Tzu?
It's a Dog
No, it's a zoo with no animals.

Result! Mrs B laughed, and I managed to drop in some light swearing at the same time.

Today I visited a shit zoo.


Neat
Next door to the zoo is a golf course which is in both North Dakota and Minnesota. You can drive your ball into the next state.

Pool Action
Last night's hotel had a swimming pool, with a pool table about 6 feet from the edge. I did not photograph it. There were 4 college girls playing Pool, and at my age it looks creepy brandishing a camera around women of this age.

I Saw the Sign
Ace of Base - now there's a band.

All of these objects are insanely huge and very well sign-posted, however I missed each and every one of them first time around. Maybe I'm just growing weary ...

Catfish - it's 30ft long and made of fiber glass


Otter - I have to write something about each one?



Viking
- city of Alexandria. Erotic City was playing on my iPod. Alexandria is not erotic.


Crow - A war memorial? I think those are bird droppings on there.


Chicken - It's a big chicken. What else do you want?


Nostalgic for Nothing
I didn't grow up in this country so it's hard to be nostalgic for Old Time Main Street USA. But Litchfield was just that. It was epitomized by Hardware Hank. I popped inside and sure enough they were wearing red baseball caps. Classy.


Twine (not string)
Bigger than the string ball from earlier in the week, but less trusting. This glass encased baby is huge.

Side note: Down the road they have a store called "Floors Galore!" Here's a close up of the twine.


Dr Taylor I presume?
I've been wanting to do this for an age.
Checking in, "Hi, I have a reservation tonight, name Dr. Taylor"
Hotel Receptionist: "Oh, here it is, welcome to Chaska, Dr. Taylor"

Who wouldn't want to be welcomed to a hotel as a doctor? OK, so it's a blatant lie, unethical and thank God nobody collapsed and required medical attention. But for a small moment, I felt smart and mature ... which is the exact opposite ...

Doctors don't stay in budget hotels?
Not sure if they scratched the braille too. Because that joke would also make a blind guy laugh.


Dorothy works at Arby's


Day 5 Stats
300 miles: Wahpeton ND to Breckenridge MN, to Alexandria to Belgrade to Litchfield to Darwin to Delano to Chaska

Final 5 songs of the week and why

Superfunkycalifragisexy; Prince
First Prince song I heard upon entering Minnesota. (The pint sized fella is from here)

Do You Remember the First Time?; Pulp
Reminded me I was very English in the middle of the American heartland.

Someday We'll All Be Free; Donny Hathaway
A strange contraction but, I found myself singing Someday Wi-Fi 'll be free. First suicide and now this. Sorry Donny.

Yeah (x3); Usher
I think he knows his way around a lady.

Pretty Little Angel Eyes; Curtis Lee
Damn well makes you want to drive straight to a diner, and order a milkshake. Remember Phil Spector for this and not the crazy gunplay.

So tomorrow I'm going to try to find the airport bathroom where Senator Larry Craig was arrested for lewd conduct....