Sunday, November 28, 2010

Why Typography is Important...

Letters are a simple and oft overlooked aspect of life. No, not the postmarked missives that occasionally dot our mailboxes in between bills, catalogs, and fliers for discount carwashes; but the actual characters that form the alphabet.

This can but no more clear than when we place two letters together and they blur creating new and unintended letters. CLi for example have been used recently to form the basis of visual pun of sorts for a British magazine best represented with this image.

Needless to say, I don't think I need to spell out what the visual pun is. Same can be done with typing out the word FLiCK. Basically, this was an old letterers trick in the era of hand lettering in comics. The printing process would often smear the "Li" into a single letter making it appear as a "u" leading to all sorts of fun.

That is why I can't help but think that the following product was an intentional classier attempt at this sight gag:

And this is why I love going to antique shops...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thinkin about Lincoln

I have no idea if  there is a count of presidential statues out there in the world, but I think there must be more depictions of Abraham Lincoln than any of other president of this country.

Portland has it's own statue of Lincoln, unfortunately not shown here in the series of images, showing the long, serious face of the country's leader. As local lore goes, someone once complained to the creator of the local Lincoln's sad look to which the sculptor responded, "He's fighting the civil war..." 

Even when the Gettysburg Address was read, it was generally ignored by the public due to a gentleman setting up equipment to take a photograph of the event. One of America's greatest speeches was upstaged by faddish technology of the era.

Just something to think about...

Some day there might be a statue of Bush the Lesser. And that day will be sad day on which all of the statues of Lincoln will cry copper tears. 
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Monday, November 15, 2010

Chicago Signs

Presented in no particular order, and with no particular sense of rhyme or reason, are some signs found on various establishments I found fascinating while I was strolling around the neighborhoods of Chicago.

Given that Portland is such a young city in contrast to the rest of the nation, we lack a lot of iconic neon. Interstate Avenue, once the old highway through Portland, had its fair share of motel signs. But in terms of simple business signs, we seem to lack the abundance that can be found in other cities.

I know nothing of the story of this fish.

Here, even the simple font of this Police sign stands out as emblematic. The building itself is older than most establishments in my home town, but the gives off a rough-edge impression of cops wearing crisp blue uniforms walking beats, not the merely sitting in patrol cars drinking coffee. 

And in an age when the "mom and pop" pharmacy is replaced by chain stores and megamarts, it is refreshing to see a strange, yet reassuring message that deliveries, no matter how embarrassing will be made.

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When in Jail...

Explore the history of the jail. Well, that is, if you're not incarcerated and you have the opportunity to see the sites as I had the odd pleasure to do this recent weekend.

Sure you could trade cigarettes for contraband or make hooch out of fruit cocktail, but when there is such a pleasant little collection of a hundred years of history, might as well learn something. At the Washington County Jail, just to the side of the jail's visiting area and a bit beyond the bail payment window, you walk into a wonderful atrium with a nice historical collection.

The pictures display images of the early history of county's law enforcement past. For example, this picture of the first county jail. The structure still stands on the county fairgrounds.

And of course, no jail collection is complete without an antique set of handcuffs and cell key. The fingerprint pad caught my interest. While technology changes, some practices are still the same.

And of course there are the men of law enforcement. 

While I would never have strolled upon this collection under normal circumstances, any chance to spot local collections makes me happy. And to see history and have a recently released inmate ask to borrow your telephone so he can call his buddy to pick him up from the clink is a unique experience as well. 

I don't spend a lot of time in Washington County. In fact, I avoid the place due to the ominous expanse called Beaverton, but there are some fascinating pieces of history in this land. And if you spend time in the local jail, you get to meet the real people of the county as well.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Dan and Louis Oyster Bar

Dan and Louis' Oyster Bar is the  one of Portland's overlooked treasures. It's the oldest family owned restaurant in the city with five generations of the same family running this establishment.

Inside the restaurant is fascinating; it looks like the inside of a wooden ocean liner. Back-lit, painted-glass photographs of old Portland scenes dot nautical portals on the wall. And ornamental plates hang on every surface.

In any newer establishment, the decor would be kitsch. But this place has a well deserved historic feel. Over a hundred years of history dot the walls. 

Some relics make sense and add context to missing pieces of Portland history. Other's well are the pieces of ephemera that make up collections of yore.

And they have oysters. The old menu, which was in use for decades, but alas no longer, was a even a die-cut oyster shape. "Eat 'em Alive," was a their logo for years given that these gems of the ocean were shucked and  immediately served on the half-shell. Theoretically the oyster was still alive at this point. And vegans and animal rights activists can protest all they want about it, but damned are these mollusks tasty?

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Monday, November 8, 2010

Two More Views on Nostalgia and Extinction

Perhaps no extinct species inspires more lore than the lowly dodo.  This model at the Field Museum is not nearly as creative as other specimen I have seen at other museums, for, unlike the more recently deceased species we really don't have too many accurate depictions of this bird.

While "mounts" of this animal exist, they are truly composite beasts no more real than a jackalope, skvader, or fur bearing trout. Often these models are made of pigeon feathers and other bird refuse to recreate what we believe the bird once looked like when alive. Only a few mummified remains of soft tissue exist, a head and a foot, have been used to create our image of this bird.

Here the actual feathers are skipped altogether; a sculpted figure replaces any "realness" that the dodo could have had. And like all contemporary representations of this animal, we are left with a lifeless, plastic decoy. Our attempt to memorialize a missing animal has created a pink-lawn-flamingo-effect, replacing lost nature with mass produceable objects. Instant nostalgia.

To contrast the lost past, when something once thought extinct returns, the world is often shocked. Especially when the animal that returns is as alien as this ancient fish. The ancient coelacanth is one such species once only thought to exist in the fossil record. However, when discovered off the coast of Indonesia and later off of Madagascar, it changed the view of the zoological world. 

In an age of loss, a new question of "What might we have overlooked?" began to creep back into collective thought. More recently, the ivory-billed woodpecker captivated public interest as it was seemingly rediscovered in the pine forests of Arkansas. Yet once again it has vanished.

Do these glimmers prompt nostalgia or do they halt the imagination? No classic stories are created with the coelacanth as a character of whimsy wearing a monocle and walking around with a cane. Granted it is hard for a fish to walk with a cane, but that is beside the point. But perhaps nostalgia is a fickle entity, taking the comical and awkward and making it accessible. The dodo, a comical bird; the flamingo a pink creature that must feed upside-down. If we can't make it cute, we can't make it memorable.
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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Things that No Longer Exist

Extinct animals always fascinate me. We will never see a a passenger pigeon except as still images or as preserved mounts in museum displays. The same can be said for the Carolina parakeet, Eskimo Curlew, Great Auk, and countless other birds, mammals, reptiles, and other animals that once roamed the earth.

I am amazed to think that at one point in time, the sky was once blackened by the flocks of some of these  species. But groups of hunters and high-powered shotguns managed to obliterate numbers of the animals to nil in just a matter of decades.

While a pigeon or a duck may seem like mundane losses, one has to appreciate how pretty they are as preserved specimen. By no means do they have the majesty of a tiger, or the mass of an elephant, but once gone, how are they missed?

Rarely do we observe the insignificant things until they are completely gone. 

Maybe that is the true poetry of extinction. Extinction creates nostalgia, artificial longing for things we never knew. In contemporary society, we care nothing of the pigeon. But one species of pigeon, dead now for a century, evokes the folly of man and the melancholy associated with such emotion. 
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This is the immortal Harry Caray, famed announcer for the Chicago Cubs baseball franchise. He is not to be confused with harakiri, the Japanese form of ritual suicide in which an individual slices open their stomach. However, because Americans can't pronounce foreign tongues with any form of dignity, people mistake the two words.

These are Harry Caray's fans... emerging like odd tumors out of the thigh of this great announcer. Fans of old horror movies might recall Freddy Krueger's chest of souls, the screaming faces of all of his victims affixed to his torso, well, this is kind of like that. Except that here, we have happy cubs fans popping out of Mr. Caray's thighs.

So this is Harry Caray--not ritual suicide and not a demonic dream-lord with countless souls in his thighs. Just an icon who popularized thick glasses before hipster kids came along. 

It is a little known fact that if you find yourself drunk at Wrigley Field and pass out underneath the statue of Harry Caray during a World Series Game, every time you hear the song "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" you will ejaculate diamonds and the first child sired from such emissions will be born with pure white hair.

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Saturday, November 6, 2010

Contrasting Views of Sealife

The mermaid has been a fascination of many for centuries. Odysseus encountered his Sirens, ancient mariners told tales of encounters with aquatic women. The Irish had stories of the selkie, a seal that shed its skin and became human. Often this legend is traced back to the now rare sea cows that dotted the salt marshes of many coastal waters around the world.

At the field museum. I came across a diorama of manatees feeding on see grasses. This exhibit was tucked away from the normal exhibit halls, in a dining area where people can purchase vending machine meals or venture to an on-site McDonald's and get their fast food fix.

In the fluorescent lights of this ill-respected portion of the museum, I had to wonder why this had-been mermaid, no longer deserved the respect of a more famous mermaid on exhibit in the hall of gems.

This Tiffany stained glass image of a mermaid is the more contemporary ideal. And it is presented in a room of treasures; gold, jade, diamonds, onyx. Tiffany works are renowned world wide for their craft and beauty, but it seems strange to contrast the rarity of these two pieces.

The manatee, the living mermaid will surely go extinct in the next few decades. And it is the progenitor of the mermaid myth. More Tiffany glass pieces exists than manatees in the world. But one belongs in a food court; one belongs in a room of precious stones and metal.

Something to think about when pondering treasures.
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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Further Proof that Vampires are Cliche...

So maybe they aren't really vampires, but water deer have the fangs of the stereotypical blood-sucker. And except for Bunnicula, have you ever seen a more adorable fanged creature in your life?

There are other fanged deer in the world, mostly in Asia. Why Asia, because unlike normal vampires that have a problem with stakes through hearts, these animals have a problem with simple bullets. Sad but true.

And let's face it Bambi would not have been nearly as cute if he had sharp fangs to do who knows what to the hunter that shot his mother. Twitterpated my ass, Bambi with fangs is out for blood. 
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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

This is Not Toothpaste

And while this may not be toothpaste, it is apparently Creamed Smoked Roe. Ahem...

Kalles is not to be mistaken with the squeeze tubes of mayonnaise that could be found in the cooler case right next to this strange Aryan-homo-erotic snack product. 

Nothing says delicious like creamed smoked roe...
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Rare Finds at the Field Museum in Chicago

Out of all the museums that I have had the pleasure of visiting, I believe that the Field Museum in Chicago ranks as the one of the best. And here are some of my favorite finds.

The Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, and while I have have previously made jokes about its relatives the Gresham Dick-on-a-Brick, and the New Jersey Douche-of-the-Roust, it never fails to flog a dead horse with a funny joke.

Slightly more unusual is the Screw Pine. However, while screwing and pining are not mutually exclusive acts, when the two are combined in flora, well you end up with this thing.

And of course no trip a museum is complete without viewing some wild ass. In this case, Somali wild ass. 

Now that's a fine ass. 

Okay, enough of that...More pictures later.
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