Archive for July, 2012

Today Is Hug-A-Phone-Scammer Day

- July 24th, 2012

 

I wrote this late Monday night. When I got up Tuesday morning I re-read it and thought, “Nah, that’s too harsh. It doesn’t do anybody any good.” So I didn’t post it.

 

Then, in the normal course of my day Tuesday, I passed two radar traps in areas that had no children, no pedestrians, no houses of any kind — just abnormally low speed limits on connector roads feeding off higher-speed arteries. 

 

Of course there were plenty of flies for the radar-cop spiders to catch. But those hapless drivers nailed with speeding tickets weren’t endangering anyone, they weren’t doing anything realistically excessive, they were not in any way, shape or form being Bad Guys.

 

But what really got me was the smug look of self-satisfaction I saw on the faces of two of those radar cops as they handed out tickets. Did those cops really think they were benefiting society, making the world a better place or even truly, honestly earning their salaries as justice heroes? If they did, they were sorely mistaken. They were being the Sheriff of Nottingham’s paid men, not the Lone Ranger or even Officer Krupke (that’s a West Side Story allusion, by the way). 

 

So I decided to post this piece after all.

 

 

Isn’t every day hug-a-phone-scammer day?

 

It must be. Based on the number of dial-a-dummy/dialed-by-a-computer phone calls I get ALMOST EVERY FREAKING DAY, Canada’s self-inflating law enforcement agencies obviously consider massive telephone fraud epidemics conducted by highly organized crime organizations to be a low priority on the crime-fighting front.

 

Oh, I know — law-and-order apologists of every stripe will rise up on their hind legs and howl about how stretched and eviscerated Toronto’s — Canada’s? you pick the jurisdiction — police resources are in their never-ending fight against crime and bad attitude.

 

I’m actually picking this particular terrible time — when Toronto is still reeling from gang gun violence and the deaths of innocents — to talk about this because (surprise, surprise) I’m still seeing plenty of Toronto cops with radar guns hanging out at their favourite speed traps while the almighty wizards of Oz prattle on about stepping up the war against crime.

 

So, obviously, Toronto Police have their priorities in line. Those priorities just don’t happen to coincide with mine.

 

I think a sleazebag conning a grandmother over the telephone is a bigger threat to our social order and way of life than somebody pulling off the Don Valley Parkway at 64 km/h instead of 50 km/h.

 

(And just so no hyperthyroid cop has to run an illegal check on me, I haven’t been stopped for speeding in several years.)

 

It may be harder, more time consuming and less profitable, but in the long run I do think society would be better served by our precious police resources being devoted to the very real plague of organized telephone con operations now infesting the GTA instead of plumping city treasury coffers with trophy kills of deer-in-the-headlights traffic violators.

 

Don’t tell me radar cops and telephone-fraud cops are apples and oranges: If the telephone fraud outfits can train hamburger-flippers to con grandparents on the telephone, surely we can train radar cops to stop them. Can’t we?

 

And it is a serious problem. I sometimes get not one but two or even three phone calls in an evening from knumbknuts who want to rip me off. No, I’m not paranoid. How many evenings in a row would “Microsoft” or “your computer manufacturer” want to talk to you about a problem that requires one to give a complete stranger details about your Internet activities, sign-on and password?

 

The dumbest one — and hence this diatribe — was Monday night when someone called me from “the government ecology service programme.” I didn’t even bother finding out what kind of scam they were pulling — probably just a home insulation ripoff — because it was too lame to even bother sneering at.

 

But, sadly, even though no real government body in Canada will ever call you and identify themselves as “the government ecology service programme,” it will seem real enough to some people that they will listen to the come-on and a small proportion of those listeners will actually be coaxed into doing something that they will soon come to regret.

 

But that’s the way these operations work. They don’t care if most people see through the sloppy guise because the only people they really want to talk to are the really gullible ones. It’s a numbers game. The faster the non-suckers clear out the better. So (if I have the time) I like to keep the scammers on the line as long as possible, just to waste their scamming time.

 

The thing that bothers me the most is the increase over the past year in the number of these calls. It means Toronto has been targeted as a safe market for these maggots to operate. Would they be operating on the scale they are if there was any fear of repercussion?

 

If I had any kind of tech savvy at all, I’d track the buggers down myself — but I don’t. I’m a techno-idiot. But then I don’t go out and issue traffic tickets either, do I? Is it too much to ask that the Toronto Police Service track down the phone fraudsters that seem to be operating with complete impunity in this city? Organized criminals who apparently have not the slightest fear of having their obviously profitable business interrupted by something so alien as law and order and protection of the innocent?

 

It can’t be a big secret.

 

Surely plenty of Toronto cops are getting the same kind of shady phone calls I’m getting. Or don’t the telephone fraudsters call numbers in Oakville, Thornhill and Vaughan?

 

If anyone from the Toronto Police Service wants to call me on this, feel free. You should have my number. Everyone else seems to.

 

 

 

Who The Hell Is Milton Glaser?

- July 20th, 2012

 

Milton-Glaser-self-portrait

Self-portrait of Milton Glaser.

 

I’m glad you asked because the same thought was running through my head just the other day.

 

Turns out Milton Glaser is probably the world’s greatest living graphic designer.

 

That’s not my opinion — that’s the opinion of most of the world’s other great graphic designers, all of whom have been influenced by and owe a huge inspirational debt to this little old artistic genius.

 

You know Milton Glaser, too. You just didn’t know his name before reading this.

 

Watch. I’ll prove it.

iHeartNy

 

Yep, Milton Glaser designed that most iconic of graphic love notes, which has been turned and twisted in a thousand different permutations but always keeps its simple, gracefully cuddly power. (The typeface is American Typewriter if you’re creating your own variation, although Glaser modified AT for the real  ”I ♥ NY”.) Only Harvey Ball’s Smiley Face is as omnipresent in modern graphic culture as “I ♥ (whatever).”

 

Milton Glaser has done so much more than that but before we get to other aspects of his work, I’m going to tell you a little bit about “I ♥ NY” and how it came to be.

 

First of all, even though everyone associates “I ♥ NY” with New York City, it was actually commissioned as part of an advertising campaign for New York State in 1977. The overall marketing campaign was handled by NYC ad agency Wells Rich Greene, but Milton Glaser — then at the absolute pinnacle of his game and an ardent New Yorker — was asked to design a logo that embodied the ad campaign’s “I Love New York” theme.

milton-glaser-1970s

Milton Glaser in the 1970s.

One thing you have to understand is that New York in the mid-1970s was a far different place than the New York City we know today.

 

The city then was a disaster zone plagued by soaring crime, drug use, prostitution, homelessness, hopelessness, a collapsing infrastructure and subway system, abandoned buildings, a corrupt police force, a middle class fleeing to the suburbs and a city government teetering on the brink of financial collapse.

 

Then-mayor Abraham Beame was within hours of declaring New York City bankrupt in 1975 when the teachers union finally, reluctantly agreed to pump $150 million of its pension fund into New York City security bonds, thus keeping the civic administration solvent.

 

Then the city was jackhammered by the power blackout of July 13-14, 1977 (caused by lightning strikes and faulty equipment) which led to widespread looting, rioting and panic.

 

Later that year, tough-talking and fiscally conservative Ed Koch was elected mayor. Along with help from the federal and state governments, Koch got the city on the road to recovery, but it was a long, hard decade. In 1977 any ode to New York City was based more on romantic nostalgia or cockeyed optimism than on any pragmatic assessment of the city as it existed at that time.

 

As I said before, the ad campaign was a state-wide venture but, of course, NYC — the Big Apple — has to figure prominently in any panoramic view of the state of New York. And Milton Glaser was an ardent and committed New York City-ite. (He had founded New York magazine in 1968 with partner Clay Felker from the ashes of the Sunday magazine supplement of the defunct New York Herald Tribune.)

New-York-cover-Dec-1968

So even though the promotional campaign was a state affair, Glaser, in his own heart, was saying “I ♥ NY (City).” So it’s really not a distortion to associate “I ♥ NY” as much with the city — or moreso — as with the state.

I-heart-NY-square

There is a Canadian twist to all this, by the way. Glaser has said he got the idea for “I ♥ NY” from an ad campaign run by Montreal radio station CJAD (now a talk/news format but back then an all-purpose pop AM format) around the time of the 1976 Olympics: “Montreal, the city with a ♥.”

 

CJAD never got any money for its contribution, but then neither did Glaser.

 

Why?

 

Because Glaser did it for free — mostly out a sense of public service and pure-hearted love for the city of his birth and nurturing. And also because he really thought at the time the ad campaign would run for a few months and then be forgotten.

It didn’t and it wasn’t. Thirty-five years later, New York (both city and state) are still recycling “I ♥ NY.” (And New York State now pulls in millions every year from licensing deals, even though it didn’t get around to copyrighting the logo until the late ’80s.)

I-love-NY-all

 

And Glaser’s original sketch and presentation boards are now part of the permanent collection of New York City’s Museum of Modern Art.

 

After the catastrophic events of Sept. 11, 2001, Milton Glaser created a new version of his iconic logo.

 

Milton Glaser opy

 

The black spot on the heart is approximately where the World Trade Center was located on Manhattan Island.

 

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ (that’s one heart for each of Milton Glaser’s decades so far)

 

Now on to a random tour of some other aspects of Milton Glaser’s life and art.

 

Milton Glaser was a significant presence on the the New York design scene from the mid-1950s on, creating everything from magazine and newspaper illustrations and layouts to book jackets to restaurant menus to company logos to advertising campaigns.

 

Here are a few of his print creations.

Paperback-cover-50-cents

An early book cover, above, and a couple of later ones below.

hesse-book-cover

The-Cook

 

Sports-Illustrated-1961

A 1961 illustration for Sports Illustrated, above, and a Time magazine cover in 2010, below.

Time-cover-2010

March-1971-NY-cover

A 1971 New York magazine cover, above, and a poster for the 1970s Broadway production of The Wiz, below.

The-Wiz-poster

 

And here are a few — just a few — of the many record album covers he created (primarily during the 1960s and 1970s).

the-london-chuck-berry-sessions

Rhymin-Simon-cover

Van-Zandt-album-cover

Doc-Watson-cover-1972

nina-simone-cover

 

Lightnin-Hopkins-album-cover

 

And some logos for record companies.

asylum

Phantom-Records-label

And even the occasional movie poster.

zabriskie_point_antonioni_glaser_ar

 

And, of course, he’s done corporate logos — but only for companies he likes, such as DC Comics and Brooklyn Brewery.

DCcomics

 

brooklyn

Milton Glaser - Brooklyn-Brewery

 

The 1960s was the period in which I became acquainted with Glaser — although I didn’t know his name then.

 

The most striking Glazer creation of the time was a poster he designed for inclusion in 1967′s Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits. It’s often known as the “psychedelic poster” and seems almost cliched now — but that’s only after 45 years of overexposure. At the time I opened up that cardboard album sleeve and found the four-fold poster, I was blown away.

 

miltonglaser_dylan

 

And, like I said, I had no idea who created it. I didn’t really even think about it. My recollection is that I assumed it was done by Peter Max — who was very big in the psychedelic pop art world at the time — or was just a knockoff commissioned by Columbia Records.

max_peter_love

PeterMax

Some Peter Max artwork from around the same time. The one below was actually done after the Dylan poster and probably owes a small debt of inspiration to Milton Glaser.

 Peter-Max- Poster-1969

But the Dylan poster was a great piece of art — an iconic piece — and I wish I still had it. (Of course, I wish even more that I still had the small signed sketch A.Y. Jackson did for me a year or two later in Kleinburg — but a life lived without terrible regrets is a paltry, flippant thing.)

Marcel-Duchamp-1957-Self-Portrait_in_Profile

Glaser has always given credit where credit is due, and he says the Dylan poster was inspired by a 1957 self-portrait by French graphic artist Marcel Duchamp (above). That’s nice of Glaser, but I think the poster also reflects Rowland Scherman’s 1965 profile photo of Dylan on the cover of the Greatest Hits album.

greatest-hits-1967

And Glaser may be either consciously or subconsciously referencing himself in this 1976 New York magazine cover, below.

New-York-May-1976-cover

Moving on to a seemingly more mundane area, Glaser created plenty of restaurant menus — but they were for the best, the chicest, the funkiest, the most foodie-beloved restaurants of their day. And he often created the entire look of the restaurant, as well, from interior design to specialty china.

Russian-Tea-Room-menu

Menus for New York City’s Russian Tea Room, above, and, below, Rudi’s Country Kitchen, a vegetarian restaurant in Woodstock, New York, run by adherents of the Rudrananda Ashram.

Rudis-menu

 

Since we’re on restaurants, here’s another connection between Milton Glaser and the 9/11 terror attack on the World Trade Center.

 

Glaser designed — not once, but twice — the WTC’s signature series of restaurants and bars called Windows on the World on the 106th and 107th floors of the North Tower. (Initial design work was done by Warren Platner, but restaurateur Joe Baum later put responsibility for the coordinated look of the whole project in the hands of his friend Milton Glaser.)

WOTW-WTC-menu

The first Windows on the World menu cover, above, and, below, views of the main restaurant in 1976 and 1996.

1976WOTW

1996WOTWdinningroom

1996-WOTW-china

One of the china plates designed by Milton Glaser for the 1996 incarnation of WOTW.

The first go-round was in 1976 for the grand opening. The second was in 1996, with every seat in the restaurant getting a view of the New York skyline. The complex had the main Windows on the World restaurant, a second resto called Wild Blue, the appropriately named Greatest Bar on Earth (with a view to match) and a series of smaller rooms with revolving names for private functions. For a time, around the turn of the millennium, it was the highest-grossing restaurant complex in the United States. The restaurant was in full operation for breakfast the morning American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower. No one in the restaurant at the time survived.

 

(This is completely off-topic, but Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane was supposed to be on that AA Flight 11 from Boston to L.A. However, MacFarlane’s travel agent gave him the wrong departure time and MacFarlane got to Logan Airport a few minutes after boarding was closed off. MacFarlane missed his flight — and lived.)

 

iHeartNy

 

Sorry, I didn’t mean to get on a downer tangent, but Milton Glaser is synonymous with New York City and New York will forever be intertwined with the tragedy of 9/11.

 

At 83, Milton Glaser is still active and vibrant and an inspiration to others. He has some sharp opinions (for example, “Computers are to design as microwaves are to cooking.”) But he is mostly a man of great humanity, humility, graciousness and generosity.

Milton_glaser2

And he still works non-stop. As Glaser says, “The real issue is not talent as an independent element, but talent in relationship to will, desire, and persistence. Talent without these things vanishes and even modest talent with those characteristics grows.”

 

He’s done everything from a 200-metre mural on a federal government building in Indianapolis and an underground mural in NYC’s Astor Place subway station to recent magazine covers to high-profile ads to pro-bono work for non-profit organizations.

 

He’s redesigned newspapers (like The Washington Post) and consulted on others (like Canada’s National Post — although I don’t really see Glaser’s fingerprints there) and for 15 years he oversaw every design aspect — from architecture to packaging — of The Grand Union Company supermarket chain in the U.S. And of course he does his own straight-up art.

 

Here’s a sampling of some of Milton Glaser’s recent work. Go to the Internet to find more examples of his incredible creations. The more you look, the more you’ll be dazzled.

I ♥ MG.

 

Venezia-carnevale-2009

 

milton-glaser-big-yellow-nudes

September-2010

AIDSposter

Darfur

 

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

U-S-A, U-S-A … um, C-H-I-N-A … um, F-R-A-N-C-E

- July 14th, 2012

USA-Olympic-Uniform

So Ralph Lauren and the U.S. Olympic Committee are in big doo-doo over the fact that Team USA will be wearing made-in-China uniforms for the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Really. How stupid could they be? Didn’t this just have “Kick Me” written all over it?

The uniforms even have “Made in China” labels, for gosh sakes. The entire U.S. Olympic Committee and Ralph Lauren designer squad should be sent to a forced labour camp in China for a few months in penance.

Of course, before Ralph Lauren took over, the Team USA uniforms were produced by Roots, that all-Canadian company founded by a couple of Americans (Vietnam draft dodgers, as I recall, but I could be wrong). So there’s a track record (so to speak) of Team USA outsourcing its Olympic clothing requirements.

Ralph Lauren has now promised that all Team USA uniforms for the 2014 Winter Olympics will be manufactured in the U.S. Duh. Ralphie boy, you really should have figured that one out on your own without every wingnut Congressman pointing out your stupidity.

USA-Olympic_USA_Uniform

But the point-of-manufacture origin isn’t the biggest crime of the Team USA uniforms — it’s that goofy beret.

Nobody — and I mean nobody — looks good in a beret. Some people can get away with wearing one on occasion but nobody looks as good in a beret as they do out of a beret. Not even a Frenchman.

french-beret

 

Not even John Wayne.

john-wayne-beretjpg

So not only has Ralph Lauren gone out of his way to create a chauvinistic manufacturing crisis in the midst of mounting American job losses, he’s also gone out of his way to make American athletes look — and probably feel — silly. That’s got to cost Team USA five or six medals in the long run. How are you going to compete at your highest level as an Olympic athlete when you’ve been forced to parade in front of the world wearing a silly beret? Where were the sports psychologists in this whole design process?

silly-beret

The rest of the Team USA uniform sucks too. Ralphie is cramming those bulging-muscled athletes into the too-tight armpit-and-crotch-grabbing pants and jackets that are all the rage now.

BoySuits

It’s a ridiculous look. It makes adult men look like little boys. But maybe that’s what they want to look like. If they do, they deserve to lose.

The uniforms are just as unsuitable for women. Sure, they look fine on Ralph Lauren models. But, as far as I know, no Ralph Lauren models are actually competing in the Olympics.

beret-female-model

This is what an American Olympic athlete looks like.

FemaleWeightlifting

And this too.

sarah-robles

I just don’t see these competitors packing into the tight little outfits Ralph Lauren has made for them.

Of course, the actual Team USA performance attire is much sleeker and cooler (no berets in sight) but the damage will have already been done  long before the athletes step onto the track or dive into the pool.

Performance-uniform

Sad to say, Canada’s Olympic opening ceremony uniforms are the pits too. But at least they look a little cooler (as in not hot, not as in good looking). Unfortunately they also make every Canadian athlete look as if they have suffered serious neck wounds and are bleeding out as they parade around the Olympic stadium.

Canada-Olympic-uniform

Apart from the blood-spattered redness, the Canadian uniform looks about as stylish as those worn by Mr. Jiffy lube-job specialists.

Well, that’s my fashion statement for the year — maybe two or three years. But it had to be said. When people like Ralph Lauren make millions by dressing up athletes like poodles, they have to be called on it — or else we all end up walking around wearing silly berets and too-tight, crotch-grabbing little-boy suits. And we don’t want that to happen, do we?

beret

 

 

 

 

Politicians In Cowboy Hats

- July 10th, 2012

Mulcair-calgary-stampede-sun

UPDATE: Look who’s wearing a cowboy hat — Tommy Mulcair. And he doesn’t look half bad in it.

 

Everybody loves the Calgary Stampede (except, of course, for  PETA and friends).

 

But few people understand the true catnip of that love affair. It’s got nothing to do with horses or cows or corrals or clowns (well, not in the rodeo sense). Nope. It’s all about the hats. Cowboy hats.

 

Taking part in the Calgary Stampede allows everyone from royalty to the Dalai Lama to Joe Schmoe from corporate accounting in Mississauga to strut around town wearing a cowboy hat without feeling like a freaking idiot — a freaking, make-believe, wanna-be idiot at that.

fergie-andrew-1987

DaliLama-CalgaryMayor-DaveBronconnier-2009

Basically, the only way you stand out in Calgary during Stampede is by NOT wearing a cowboy hat. (NOTE: It really, truly has to be a Stetson™ to feel right on your head; I’d substitute “Stetson” for “cowboy hat” in this piece but some jokers out there haven’t got the message and are wandering around in knockoffs — and they can’t figure out why they’re feeling like jerks.)

 

Anyone can get away with wearing a cowboy hat during Stampede. Just look at this silly fellow.

harper-hat

The hat fetish is very much a case of living out childhood fantasies for most of us. In general, the cowboy hat’s pull has far more to do with Saturday afternoon movies and backyard gunfights than it does with any sort of modern reality.

 

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

 

A healthy fantasy life supposedly keeps us sane and balanced as we slug through the daily drudge of life. Just don’t confuse fantasy and reality.

 

In that regard, I have more than a little trouble with politicians (of all stripes) who flock to the Calgary Stampede just so they can wear cowboy hats. Or, more precisely, so they can be photographed and videotaped wearing cowboy hats.

 

Because everybody loves a hero, too. And nothing says hero like a white cowboy hat.

Trudeau-Cal-Sun-Stampede-2012

Of course, there are those rebellious punks who wear black hats just to cock a snoot a society and say “I’m an outlaw in my heart — just like Willie and Waylon.”

Harper-Cowboy-Hat

Or maybe the black hat just says Snidely Whiplash, the nasty mortgage-flaunting banker who wants to get his hands on Sweet Nell’s, um, homestead.

Anyway, politicians flock to the Calgary Stampede every year like mice to cheese so they can gladhand and backslap and smile for the camera. But most importantly, I think, so they can wear cowboy hats without looking like complete fools. Most of them fail in that regard. But here’s a selection of our boys and girls trying their best to look like Western heroes and heroines.

chretien

 

Trudeau-lariat

martin-stampede

ignatieff_cowboy

hat-redford

hat-clark

may

naheed-nenshi-calgary-stampede

Jean_Charest

JackLayton

Well, Jack Layton looks the best of the bunch (Redford and Trudeau — dad — are pretty good, too). I wonder if we’ll ever see Tommy Mulcair wearing a Stetson in Calgary? Come to think of it, I’ve never seen a photo of Mulcair wearing a hat — of any kind.

But then, some people just shouldn’t wear hats — of any kind.

Willem-Dafoe-hat

Canadian politicians aren’t the only ones who glory in the macho image a cowboy hat imparts. Wearing a cowboy hat is just part of being an American president.

obama_cowboy_hat

Cowboy_George_W_Bush

Cowboy_Bill_Clinton

RonaldReaganCowboyHat

 

LBJ-stetson

nixon-lone-ranger

Eisenhower-Wearing-Cowboy-Hat

fdr-stetson

calvin-coolidge-stetson

Roosevelt

Even American presidential wannabes use the cowboy hat.

herman-cain-in-cowboy-hat

 

And presidents of other countries — like South Sudan and Ethiopia.

Salva-Kiir-with-Ban-Ki-Moon

Ato Girma Wolde Giorgis-Ethiopia-prez_cowboy

And prime ministers of countries other than Canada.

winston-churchill-wearing-hat

And, of course, royalty.

kate-and-william-in-cowboy-hats

But nobody does it better than the Duke.

John-Wayne-in-True-Grit-1969