Saturday, December 13, 2008

Sorry, But It's Time for More Creepy Graphics

While I freaked out at least one reader with my post on the Frankensteinian book jacket, I am compelled to write again about graphic design.

Working as I do at a feed store, I am up close and personal with many products, and get to witness vicariously the joys and sorrows that must be the daily fare of designers and advertisers. For example, one rubber toy YELLS that it is "THE WORLD'S BEST DOG TOY!" (It puts that claim in quotes. Maybe they are "air quotes." How am I to know?) But when I first noticed that string of words I thought, "Huh. I thought THE WORLD'S BEST DOG TOY! was a half-rotted duck rolled in cat poop and buried under a pile of sticks."

Here's the latest product to catch my eye:

My dog--according to this image--will upon receiving this toy become irate/evil (note the eyebrows), take a bunch of meth (note the eyeballs), and slaver after my blood (note the teeth). Not only that, but my dog will ENJOY it (note the self-satisfied grin-like expression).

How, oh how, is this supposed to sell dog toys? Because I don't know about you, but living with an animal descended from wolves, an animal that has a full jaw of sharp teeth and the instincts of a predator, would be frightening enough. I would give my dog toys to soothe it and make it forget that I am weaker and really should be a prey species and have separated it from its kind and forced it to be my entertainment slave. I would not give the dog toys that render it feral and make me have to curl in a ball and try to protect my soft organs.

However, I don't own a dog. I have cats. Which, while always on the verge of ripping open my arm, are rather small and easily-managed. Maybe dog owners like to live in fear. Maybe dog owners want their pets--oops, excuse me, companion animals--to transmogrify and at the same time anthropomorphose into Jack the Ripper.

I guess we all like to live on the edge somehow. Therefore:

Dear Dog Owners (or Friends of Companion Animals if you prefer),

I have enclosed for your enjoyment a dog toy. For your dog. When you give this toy to your dog, you will need to run As Fast as Humanly Possible to your specially-designed anti-wolf/freakish-Jack-the-Ripper-Sweeney-Todd-Ted-Bundy- chimera panic room (not that it'll help, since your dog can run faster).

Or you must Resign Yourself to Fate.

Either way, it'll be good for you! Exercise! Adrenaline! Excitement! Living-on-the-Edge!

We hope you tell your friends about this marvelous opportunity.

Yours Truly,
The World's Most Ill-Conceived Dog Toy Company

Friday, December 05, 2008


This town has strange zoning laws, or maybe a strange lack of zoning laws. The result is neighborhoods with houses, businesses, and light industry all together. In other words: paradise.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Book Jacket Madness

I've been reading some books by Arnaldur Indriðason, specifically Jar City, Silence of the Grave, and Voices. All three have similar covers, with a man walking or running away from the viewer, into a landscape of some kind. They're moody, and the guy is wearing a detective-esque trenchcoat, flapping around his thighs. The jacket designer, intriguingly-named David Baldeosingh Rotstein, has done (I think) a decent job.

Looking at the credits for the jacket design of Voices, I find evidence of a kind of excessive cut-and-paste that has me reaching for my X-Acto knife and glue stick in sympathy. The credits, after acknowledging Mr. Rotstein's jacket design, devolve into madness:

Jacket photograph of hallway and door © Michael Trevillion/Trevillion Images

Jacket photograph of street scene © Chad Ehlers/Jupiter Images

Jacket photograph of running man © Robert Whitman/Jupiter Images

Jacket photograph of legs of running man © Image Source/Jupiter Images

I think it was the legs--taken from their native body and sutured onto a foreign torso--that gave me the creeps, reminding me of the freakish toy creations of serial-killer-in-the-making Sid Phillips in the movie Toy Story.

Was the man burked before being dismembered? Was he quartered as a regicide? Is Mr. Rotstein a kind of graphic designer-y Dr. Frankenstein?

Moreover, and completely unrelated, why do I find high dynamic range photos often so unpleasant and jarring?

Finally, what is the use of this particular post?

Monday, August 25, 2008

You've Got Friends!

BLARGING is weird. It's a world. A world in the series of tubes. The tube-world can overlap with the "real" world, which makes it all the more eerie.

My Actual Friend in Real Life has a BLARG. She is super-talented and makes wonderful things that make me think better of the world than I am wont to on average.

She used this ribbon to make a wrist pincushion:

See? She even teaches you how to make the things that make me think better of the world &c.

I think that the Charles Perrault version of "Little Red Riding Hood" is far more interesting than the sanitized versions. The chick gets MUNCHED by the wolf. Here's what Perrault says is the moral:
"From this story one learns that children, especially young lasses, pretty, courteous and well-bred, do very wrong to listen to strangers, And it is not an unheard thing if the Wolf is thereby provided with his dinner. I say Wolf, for all wolves are not of the same sort; there is one kind with an amenable disposition — neither noisy, nor hateful, nor angry, but tame, obliging and gentle, following the young maids in the streets, even into their homes. Alas! Who does not know that these gentle wolves are of all such creatures the most dangerous!"


The Perrault version has all the reassurance and loveliness of Der Struwwelpeter. Der Struwwelpeter is scary, and my friend Manuel (who was born in Germany) actually was given it to read as a child. So he got to read stories such as the title story, in which, according to wikipedia (which tells no lies) "a boy who does not groom himself consequently unpopular."


I saw a theatre production called Shockheaded Peter when some friends of mine (who are excellent) took me to NEW YORK CITY. Because they are nice and like me. The theatre production was very great, especially the version of "Die Geschichte vom Daumenlutscher" (The Story of Little Suck-a-Thumb), in which "a mother warns her son not to suck his thumbs. However, when she goes out of the house he resumes his thumb sucking, until a roving tailor appears and cuts off his thumbs with giant scissors."


Tuesday, July 08, 2008

It Takes a Worried Man...

As some of you may know, I work part-time at a pet food store. This job, while below my education level, is not below my intelligence. If it were, I'd be better at it, wouldn't I?

The best part of the job is mocking the customers.

Well, okay, the best part of the job is the nice customers, but one of the most amusing parts of the job is mocking the customers. The following story thus helps keep up my Job-Amusement Quotient.

The Worried Man is (to my chagrin) a regular. He comes in at least once a week, and seems always to be in a state of what my boss calls "slow, placid panic." Everything is a struggle for him, a struggle written--much like a narrative of an unsuccessful and scurvy-ridden Viking trip to Greenland--on his face, which has a permanent expression like this:
(Please note, this is a simulation, enacted for instructional purposes only.)

I made the mistake some weeks ago of trying to help Worried Man identify some bird he was (ineptly) describing. So, on Tuesday, Worried Man came out to where I was pulling plastic off of the delivery pallets, and said, "You know a lot about birds."

"I know a little," I replied.

The Worried Man (worriedly): "A little?" [Try to imagine a subtle yet pervasive whininess. What a minute, it's not subtle; it's just whiny. The idea that I am not a Total Bird Expert has sunk him nearly to the Slough of Despond.]

Me: "What's the problem?"

The Worried Man: "I have these stellar jays I feed, and I just throw the seeds on the ground, but yesterday a gopher came up [gestures with his fingers in a way meant to indicate a gopher coming up] out of the ground right in the middle of where I throw the seeds down and started trying to gather up the seeds."

Me (already tired of this conversation): "Uh-huh."

The Worried Man: "So what would you do?" [Imagine an almost professional level of helplessness. He just Can't Imagine What to Do. The problem is insurmountable unless it could, maybe, be solved by NASA.]

Me: "Well, you could put the seeds on a table." [Duh.]

The Worried Man: "A table?" (confusedly, as though a. the word is unfamiliar, or b. the concept of "table" is just one too many for him.)

"Yeah. You know. Like a yard table. A gopher would have a hard time climbing a table leg," I say somewhat brusquely, making a gesture indicating a small tube like the leg of a table.

The Worried Man: "A table?" [Still evidently unclear on the concept.] Wouldn't the gopher just climb it? What about something else, not a table? What about a milk crate?" [A milk crate is not a table. Usually. And the fact that he actually knows this is nothing short of miraculous, akin to the Virgin Birth or the belief that supply-side economics actually works.]

Me (wondering if this man has recently or in the past undergone frontal lobotomy, or leucotomy, as they like to call it in the UK, or at least in the literature that I've read from the UK. Maybe in the UK they really just call it "Making someone an annoying git" or something else suitably witty and British, but the books use the word leucotomy): "Well, a gopher would have a lot easier time climbing a milk crate than a table."

The Worried Man: "It would?" [Wonderment! Amazement! HOW HOW could this be possible?!]

Me (sighing tiredly, mostly inwardly, because this is, in fact, a customer and we need custom): "Think about it [wrong phrase to use with this guy]. A milk crate would be easier to climb than a table leg. I mean a rat could probably climb a table leg, but even a gopher could climb a milk crate."

The Worried Man (With a "Eureka!"-type insight): "Because it's like a lattice? The milk crate?"

Me: "Uh-huh." [By the way, I'm working this whole time, tearing off the plastic from the pallet loads, opening boxes, sorting stuff, vaguely hoping that appearing busy might make him Shut Up. Or even, with luck, cause the earth to open beneath his feet so that he just disappears with a final, worried, wail.]

The Worried Man: "Well, I just don't know how to keep the gopher away." [This much has become obvious, but it's nice to hear. Repetition is a great teaching tool.]

Me (wondering how long this conversation can possibly last, yet still trying, Lord knows why, to help this sorry sack): "You could put down some gopher wire and make an area where a gopher couldn't dig."

The Worried Man: "Gopher wire?" [Two words that have never appeared together before in his cosmogony. Maybe the phrase needs to be categorized among the great oxymora of the English language, along with Shakespeare's "that is hot ice" and groupings such as "achievable fantasy" or "marijuana initiative."]

Me: "Yeah. Gopher wire. It's like poultry wire but the holes are smaller, generally, and sometimes it has double wires to make it harder to chew through."

The Worried Man (unaware that he is *this close* to getting punched): "Gopher wire?"

Me: "You can get it at the hardware store. They probably have some back at the nursery, but they might just have gopher wire cages to plant your bulbs in or whatever." [I'm babbling now. I know he has no idea what a gopher cage for bulb-planting is, but I have Ceased to Care. Soon I will begin to explain my argument as to why bear-baiting and public execution are not indications that Early Modern English society was somehow excessively bloodthirsty and that Elizabethan and Jacobean revenge drama were not, despite many modern interpretations, actually mere spectacles of violence. And why would I start explaining this argument? Because I feel like it.]

The Worried Man: "Gopher wire? So it's like chicken wire?" [See I made the mistake of calling it "poultry wire," which is what they call it when you try to buy it at the hardware store. I assumed, obviously in error, that many people know that chickens are, in fact, a kind of poultry.]

Me: "Yes. You could make an area lined with gopher wire so the gopher couldn't dig there." [I really don't know how this could actually work. I mean, if you just laid the gopher wire down, the gopher would dig up next to the wire, traipse daintily (or not daintily. Maybe some gophers are clumsy.) across to where the seeds are and, voilà! Screw you, gopher wire! One would really need to make more of a gopher wire box, but since gophers can climb gopher wire (because, much like a milk crate, it has a lattice structure), I have no clue what good gopher wire would do anyone in this situation. Or, rather, at this point in the conversation (loosely-termed), I have no clue how Anything would do Anyone Any good in Any situation. Ever.]

The Worried Man: "So I could maybe put some gopher wire down and make a place where the gopher can't dig?" [They say that repeating a person's last phrase proves you are listening. They say wrong. Okay, well, not wrong exactly. They say dumb.]

Me (resignedly): "Uh-huh."

The Worried Man: "Maybe I could get some gopher wire. It seems sort of complicated." [Like brain surgery or string theory, one imagines.]

Me (trying to find some way, any way, for this conversation to be over): "You could also get a bird feeder."

The Worried Man: "I just really like being able to just throw the seed down." [Having Things Stay the Same Even with the Advent of the HORRIBLE GOPHER MENACE OF DOOM CRAP OH HELL CRAP is clearly an idée fixe with him. A solution is the last thing he wants. I think he has a crush on me, and in future when he comes into the store, I will have to leave the building.]

Me (wondering haven't we been here before?): "Well, then you could just put out a table to throw it down on."

The Worried Man (in a phrase that deserves to be lauded and passed down in story and song across time and culture): "But then I'd have a table in my yard."


After this, I said, "Well, good luck with that." But my heart wasn't really in it. Then I went and hid in the bathroom until he left.

Monday, June 02, 2008


I know this is probably the wrong question to ask, but if the FLDS women are all "into" dressing "old-fashioned" * (as opposed in the 1950s when FLDS members dressed mostly like other people in their decade and area) why are the dresses the color of icky dinner mints? I don't think "icky dinner mint" was a dye color available to the pioneers. And why did Warren Jeffs require that the dresses be made of polyester, which as far as I am given to understand is not something that existed in the olden days. And is French-braided hair an article of the faith? Because I've never seen its like in any old photos of actual pioneers.

Oh, and in case you are actually interested, here is an explanation given by a former member.

* Read the comments on this article. Creepy.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Soylent Green is People!

So, we got samples of this new dog food at work and, given the runic nature of the font used on the packaging, we got into a debate as to whether the Elves that obviously constitute the main ingredient of the food are free-range or wildcrafted. Allan at work thought wildcrafted, as does Sylvia; Damian thought definitely farm-raised free-range Elves, and I would have to agree. Wildcrafting Elves would be too hard, unless the company has a team of trained attack wolverines. And from what I know, wolverines are difficult to train.