January 30, 2008 by Colin
I once had an employee who hated my habit of picking up a red pen immediately after being given a document to review.
You know, habits are borne from practice. Hours and hours of practice.
And I’m the Director.
I’m a big enough nerd about this stuff that I think this 5 page package would make a really good tshirt.
Or maybe I can order up a brace of white shirts, each with a different tag on the pocket.
Short sleeved shirts, of course.
A lot like a tradeworker’s uniform, but definitely a subversive statement in a traditional office environment.
I can just imagine the conversation now: “Are you sure ‘kern’ isn’t a dirty word?”
[tags] design, editing, editor, poor penmanship, creativity [/tags]
January 30, 2008 by Colin
I think I’ve found my blogging doppelganger, Jen Mattern.
January 29, 2008 by Colin
…but The City Desk, a blog about a fictional urban centre, is pure genius.
A piece from last year reeled me right in, with a mix of nearly believable retail history, technological confusion and urban conspiracy: The Permanence of Gillard’s Electric Typewriter Service
“…All large cities feature that staple of stand-up comedy, the retail storefront which seems to change hands every few weeks, and our own is no exception. The left-center unit of the Pioneer Square strip mall, currently S.E. Huang’s Kenpo-Karaterie, was a Spanish-language tax preparation service catering to the South Street area’s large Ecuadorian population as recently as last November- and, in the summer of 2006, it was a boutique specializing in salsa-related merchandise. Lot 47 in the Galleria at Woldman Heights is particularly infamous in this regard; in the last three years alone, it has been a Wittman’s, a Sunglass Hut, a Gap for Seniors, a Dobbins Farm Dairy outlet store, and a shop where one could commission tailor-made potato chip varieties….
Then the suggestion that actor William Atherton, who I remember most as the EPA inspector from Ghostbusters (“It’s true. This man has no dick”), was in the running for mayor.
The City Desk is magic. It is the paper of record for every neighbourhood you have ever lived in. It’s so familiar, so accurate, it makes you realize how foolish urban life and obsessions can be.
[tags] urban life, city paper, neighbourhood journalism [/tags]
January 28, 2008 by Colin
Another datapoint to add to the discussion about how youth treat their online identity. Remember when the Smoking Gun was a revolutionary resource, opening up celebrity mugshots and notable court cases for public scrutiny? Do you remember when it was an embarrassment to be arrested and booked?
“…Finally, through the state police barracks, where Sergeant Hodsden had more than two dozen young people photographed, fingerprinted and cited for unlawful trespass, with a few also cited for unlawful mischief. He cannot shake the indifference of one youth in particular, who asked whether he could use his mug shot on his Facebook page.”
That’s from a NY Times report on a party held by Middlebury, Vermont high school students at a secluded farmhouse last owned by the poet Robert Frost. They almost trashed the place – but the mugshot is still seen as a badge of honour to be shared.
[tags] headshot, mugshot, Facebook, identity [/tags]
January 28, 2008 by Colin
Say no to strangers people, and remember that the policeman is your friend. A voyage back to 1965 provides a glimpse into the idealized life of a boy and girl in middle school – and how they navigate the multiple threats of dark back alleys, policemen that burst out of Spanish-themed bars at mid-day (7:24 in), old men in tweed proffering free puppies, and suburban moms in station wagons volunteering a free ride to the school.
Because I’m chronic that way, I noticed that the young boy had been dressed in a Fred Perry tennis shirt. Feel free to mock (me, not them. I used to drive 350 km to buy those shirts).
Remarkably absent? Any form of electronic device at all. No television, no radio, certainly no computer, PSP or wireless device. All those kids had was a playground and each other. Pathetic!
January 25, 2008 by Colin
As I made the transition into grown-up, collecting a full-time job, a marriage and a suburban home along the way, part of my youth remained sealed away – in a box of carefully collected and reluctantly ignored vinyl.
Limited editions, special imports, extremely overpriced rarities: they’re all there down in the basement. The cheap turntable of my teen years broke down long ago, to be abandoned for the trash pickers on Bathurst Street. The mix tapes lasted a little longer, but were eventually crushed under the weight of feet, coolers and seats on numerous road trips.
The result? Bands like the Merton Parkas, the Lambrettas, Selecter, and Makin’ Time receded in time, and in my memory.
One record prompted an unusual absence – The Truth’s Playground (on their MySpace) – despite its relative lack of sophistication. It was one of three cassettes I brought with me on an 18 hour trip between Toronto and New Delhi, and was played over and over in my Sony Walkman (the silver one, barely larger than the cassette itself. Don’t you remember? Sony was the Apple of the early 80s, with a new and cooler version of the Walkman every season!) as I sat on the tarmac at Heathrow during an interminable flight delay. I guess the album was burned into my sub-conscious.
Which is why I was surprised – and pleased – to find a glut of Truth-based material online in the past few months. YouTube videos. Mp3s. A concert recorded in 1983 (that doesn’t sound like it’s a dub of a dub)
It’s like the second-generation mods took ten years to jump onto the web revolution and start to use media sharing apps.
Which is understandable, since we’ve long been programmed to take our obsessions slowly: when I was a teenager, a new single from a British band could mean sending off a letter and a postal order to a shop across the Atlantic. From purchasing decision to delivery, it could take three to five weeks!
If I wanted to “build a conversation” with my favourite band, I either joined the fan club and wrote to the quarterly newsletter, or wrote off to the record label and hoped the snot nosed school leaver in the mail room felt inclined to pass my scrawlings along.
We’ve come a long way, baby.
January 24, 2008 by Colin
Four words. On a thin roadside sign. Alongside Highway 401 just outside Brockville, Ontario.
Cast and Blast Outdoors
January 23, 2008 by Colin
The forecast is in, and the men’s fashions for winter 2008 have strolled down the runways of Milan.
I love reading fashion reporting because the beat offers good writers the chance to take their adverbs, allegories and analogies for a wild ride. Throw in some strong personalities and a hint of industry desperation, and you have an entertaining mix.
Still, I thought the following passage strove a little too far to connect the world of fabric, buttons and pegged pants to real-time economic disruption:
“…DESPITE an occasional obligatory reference to the failure of the subprime mortgage market, there was little about the shows here to suggest that anyone was suffering the financial jitters. Yet perhaps the sobriety of the Armani show, whose keyword was “regal,” was a cue.
Design surprises were few in an Armani collection built on caution and control. Those are values that made the designer one of Italy’s wealthiest citizens and his brand among the most recognizable in the world. Those are his creative defaults. Thus his show read as the sartorial equivalent of a stop-loss order. The message was risk-averse…” (New York Times)
What is a “creative default”? Is that the same as “phoning it in”? Would contrasting plaids, an over sized logo and baggy fit be Tommy Hilfiger’s default?
January 22, 2008 by Colin
It’s unsettling, sort of like a time warp. “Stop the Presses: the transition from paper to pixel will bring good news” is in the latest issue of This Magazine – but it reads like it was written in 2005:
“…The transition from print to digital content will not happen overnight, and it won’t be without its difficulties. There will be those writers who will whinge about the new challenges posed by online journalism, be it the increased interactivity with readers, the possibility of periodic competition with the dreaded “blogosphere” or merely the hardship of maintaining an email address.
Editors and publishers will, one hopes, eventually have to address the fact that the online content that increasingly drives their bottom lines isn’t rewarded financially at the same rate as “traditional” contributions.
Some readers—older ones, mostly—will complain about the move from paper to pixels. But for the overwhelming majority of us, these changes are all to the good. There was a time when many people thought that the arrival of the internet would mean the death of the newspaper as we know it. Instead, it looks as though it could lead to its reincarnation.”
All this because the New York Times removed their subscriber wall?
January 22, 2008 by Colin
Yesterday, I broke with habit, I abandoned a now-established tradition. I called a 1-800 number to make a reservation.
And the customer service representative tried to game me – and the system – twice!
One on the price, and a second time on the after-service quality survey.
Since I have such low standards for call centre CSRs, I expected to be bluffed with a higher room rate, even as I quoted from the website.
Once we had finished the call, though, she asked if I would mind taking a few minutes to answer an automated survey on the quality of her service.
Then she lays this on me:
“…If you thought my service was acceptable, you can just answer 5 to every question…”
Talk about skewing the results!
Ever the contrarian, I followed her instructions – but pressed 5 even before the automated voice had finished the question. My goal? to make sure the system knew something was wonky with their survey.
It worked. At the end of the “few minutes,” another automated voice noted that my answers had seemed unusual, and offered me the opportunity to leave a voice comment about my experience.
January 21, 2008 by Colin
Have you noticed how A&E is no longer all about frilly dresses, powdered wigs and hoity toity accents? That’s called channel drift – the gradual shift in identity that signals a channel’s concentration on a new demographic (or, more frequently, grasping onto a fleeting viewer trend).
(Not to be confused with channel creep, where your once favourite channels creep up the “dial” – with PBS suddenly finding itself at channel 64. We’re back to the 1970s, where you had to dial high into the UHF band to find some of the less popular television channels. “No, you have to tweak the knob, or else you can’t lock in the horizontal hold. The station’s antenna isn’t that tall. Is it raining between here and Massena?”)
“…It is worse in Canada. In one week our Western channel (Lonestar) had The Matrix movies, Demolition Man, and Tango and Cash as its evening movies…
CollegeHumor has weighed in with its own interpretations of cable network logos – with predictable results.
January 19, 2008 by Colin
If you were challenged to describe the spirit and atmosphere of your home town, could you single out a palette of colours that would immediately seem familiar and evocative?
[tags] Pantone, Ottawa, Falkowsky, Walrus [/tags]
January 17, 2008 by Colin
Indulge me here. When I was a kid, everyone smoked. Everywhere. Which meant that lighters and ashtrays were an everyday fact of life.
So common, in fact, that they were considered accessories to your home decor. There were ashtrays that looked remarkably like appetizer plates, or maybe highball glasses. Popular in my house were ceramic ashtrays from Mediterranean countries like Spain, Greece and Italy. As for lighters, they resembled hookahs, and others looked like cubist party favours.
In fact, lighters could be divided into the personal (whether a small Bic, a showoff Zippo, or a swanky Davidoff) and the communal – a larger piece that suggested careful design and a shared experience (like a big hunk of silver or brass sitting on the coffee table)
Sort of like the Braun lighters to the right. I found these in a Gizmodo post on the similarities between Apple’s design and the work of Dieter Rams for Braun – in the 60s.
[tags] cigarettes, lighters, ashtrays, home decor [/tags]
January 17, 2008 by Colin
Let me introduce you to the Sex Patels, a punk/alt band from the Leeds and Bradford area. (MySpace) They play a mix of 80s punk with a distinctively bhangra influence (yes, a sitar and drums are involved). You should really listen to their rendition of “once in a lifetime” – the old Talking Heads classic. I think the heavy regional accent really adds something.
How did I get here?* The Sex Patels were a last minute mention in the Guardian’s Northerner newsletter. You see, they’re playing a gig at the Trades Club at Hebden Bridge later this week.
Looking through the venue’s list of upcoming acts, it struck me that, for all our talk of online communities and interwoven social networks, we overlook the influence and value of local artists and entertainment.
A comment on the Sex Patels’ MySpace page is telling:
“…Top gig on Saturday. The highlight for me was Bry’s foot on the monitor and shouting ‘Hello Howarth Community Centre’. It was genius…
Granted, their MySpace page has had less than 15,000 hits, but the buzz seems to be building. 3,000 miles away, I can’t quite make out the band’s connection to Chumbawumba – except to note that Chumba is playing the Trades Club TWICE in March.
*aaaahhhhh – see that? I threw in a reference to “once in a lifetime“! Clever little Colin!
[tags] Northern England, Chumbawumba, Sex Patel, union hall, local music [/tags]
January 16, 2008 by Colin
Starbucks is dropping organic milk from its list of options available to caffeine addicts. Apparently, the regular milk is now free of growth hormones, which eliminates the need for organic. (Oh, and drinks with the milk accounted for less than 1% of total drinks sold.)
Which seems a little strange. After all, even your local corner store is carrying organic products. It’s a trend sweeping the nation! Why drop the pretension, even if the benefits are now available in regular milk?
But Starbucks is focusing its product line, and that means cutting some things out. And some afficionados, naturally, are seeing the move as something of a betrayal, even if their organic milk tasted bad and wasn’t well promoted.
“…Goodbye, Starbucks organic milk. You sucked, but at least you offered hope… (Sustainable Scoop)
[tags] organic, consumer choice, Starbucks [/tags]