February 26, 2009
I am in Dallas for the weekend for another rodeo with old (and new)friends. Generally, I like to think that the blog posts end up being more interesting when traveling, even if they're just galleries, because I'm able to share more interesting sights or experiences than my daily day to day. This weekend, that may be a challenge. A week or two ago, my trusty old Powerbook G4 gave out. After a lot of deliberating, I finally broke down and invested in a new MacBook Pro - but it turns out that it has to be built first. It probably doesn't say anything good about me, but this may be the longest I've been away from my computer (and its slightly unsettling). As for the blog, I haven't figued out how I'll handle the weekend yet. I may post text updates or 'out of format' photos; or more likely, I may just let it be a hiatus until next week and do some catch-up posts to share the weekend after the fact. I'm sure I'll be posting little bits on facebook throughout the weekend. Otherwise, standby for more here later and pardon the interruption or break in format, whatever ends up happening...
Posted by Jon Berry at 11:23 PM
February 25, 2009
February 24, 2009
I noticed an interesting thing a few days ago when I was booking some airline tickets for a rodeo in April - I was doing a lot of work to avoid having to book on American or United. I used to detest flying on Southwest. In fairness, a lot of that is really only because of Southwest's LAX terminal, which was always a mess and had outrageously long security lines. But I was also really never fond of the boarding system with no seat assignments and people camped out for space in line. Southwest no longer uses that system, and the LAX terminal has been vastly improved (the lines are still there, but they move very fast and efficiently). But what I have found is that nowadays, flying on an airline like Southwest or JetBlue or Virgin America is like flying on a luxury airline compared to flying on the 'big' airlines like American, United, and Delta. A big reason for this is the baggage fee policy that I've railed about several times here. So many people now carry bags on that the boarding and unboarding process - already a chore - has become a nightmare. It takes forever, its a hassle, and by the time you're in your seat, you're miserable - whether you check your own bags or not. Being able to check your bag for free and be free of them when boarding a flight that isn't full of people jostling for overhead space and arguing with airline employees about having to gate-check their bags has become a luxury and, for me, a better way to fly. Recently American was named America's Worst Airline by Travel + Leisure magazine, with United falling in second place right behind them. Neither were on the worst list the year before, but in 2008, both had the fewest on-time arrivals of any airline in the US. You have to wonder if this isn't a factor. So when booking, factor in whether you prefer to carry your bags on or not (for you, having to wait for your bag in baggage claim may be worse than dragging it through the airport and on and off the plane). Also remember to add an extra $30 or more to ticket prices that come up for the big airlines, in case you are forced to check your carryon bag like I was at Christmas. The big airlines have turned the fewer-frills airlines into the fewer-hassle airlines. If you have the choice, that may be an option worth searching for when booking your next ticket to make for a more pleasant trip.
an update: as of mid-March, Virgin America has begun to charge for bags as well. So while they still provide an exceptional experience, it will be somewhat diminished. Flying on Virgin America now means lugging your bags through the airports, a much longer and hassled boarding and unboarding, and waiting for bags afterward. So while I have always been a huge fan of Virgin America, I highly reccommend now using Southwest and JetBlue as your first choices for flying, followed then by Virgin America.
Posted by Jon Berry at 11:12 PM
February 23, 2009
Many may not know that more than sixty years ago today, A World War II battle was raging in the skies over Southern California. The Battle of Los Angeles came at a tense time. The US was newly into the war and had suffered a string of defeats in the Pacific. On top of that, the British had just surrendered Singapore and a Japanese submarine had recently shelled an oil refinery in Santa Barbara. During the night of February 24th, objects were sighted in the skies. Air raid sirens sounded and a total blackout was ordered at 2:25am. At 3:16am, the 37th Coast Artillery Brigade began shelling at what reports ranged from multiple aircraft in V formation to one large craft. The shelling went on for almost an hour, firing 1400 shells, killing 3 and causing 3 heart attack deaths. Los Angeles Times Reporter Bill Henry wrote, "I was far enough away to see an object without being able to identify it ... I would be willing to bet what shekels I have that there were a number of direct hits scored on the object." Editor Peter Jenkins of the Los Angeles Herald Examiner reported, "I could clearly see the V formation of about 25 silvery planes overhead moving slowly across the sky toward Long Beach." Finally, the all clear was sounded at 7:21am. The next day, the Secretary of the Navy called it a "false alarm", but the Army responded that the attack had been genuine, with 1 to 5 aircraft. Japanese records investigated after the war showed no evidence of any flights over LA in that time. The incident remains a mystery, with theories ranging from the usual 'weather balloons' to UFO's.
An update: The Fort MacArthur Museum in San Pedro's Angels Gate Park is having a sort-of reenactment to commemorate the Battle of LA. "The idea behind the outdoor event is to re-create a social event, 1942 style, that is interrupted by the war - the fort's siren will go off to mark the anniversary, and staffers also are working on scheduling a flyover by a World War II plane." The event features swing bands, fireworks and tours of underground military tunnels by the guy from "Cities of the Underworld." Kinda bummed that I'll be out of town. more info at this link:
February 21, 2009
This weekend in a little village in Northern Italy, the streets are covered in oranges. Three years ago I ran across this event as one of the best accidental finds I've ever encountered. I had just finished a month in Torino working for NBC Olympics, and was beginning my first tour of Europe for a couple/few weeks afterward. I had a Eurail pass but only a general idea at that point of where I wanted to go. Somehow I had realized a few days earlier that Mardi Gras is also Carnevale, celebrated in many European cities, especially in Italy. I did some googling and ran across the festival held in a little town called Ivrea called the 'Battle of the Oranges'. It turned out that Ivrea was about an hour train ride from Torino, so I spent the first day of my own time in Europe at the Battle of the Oranges. I had no idea what to expect. I got off the train at this quiet little village and wandered with a few others towards town. I stopped on the way at a vendors table to ask why everyone was wearing red caps or scarves and discovered it was a marker that you weren't a participant in the battle. I bought one. The rest of the day was wandering around this amazing village as horse-drawn carts would come through and groups on the carts would engage in battle with groups on the ground. The streets were deep in orange mush. Needless to say, it was unlike anything I had ever seen. It was also a time that having the blog really crystallized as an outlet for me - I couldn't wait to get back and post the pictures and stories to share. The link below will take you to my other posts about the day. Its the kind of unique experience that I truly love and am always so grateful to have happened upon it. But I think it also holds a special place in my heart just because it was how I began my first ever European tour. What a way to begin.
Posted by Jon Berry at 11:38 PM
February 20, 2009
Silhouette Masterpiece Theatre is the wonderfully ingenious and inventive work of Wilhelm Staehle, in which he merges Victorian elegance with macabre humor. Staehle takes hand cut silhouettes, which traditionally are black, and reverses them - making them "blank slates" that can have new meanings. Staehle revels in the reversal of color and meaning, particularly in old fairytales and poems that are far less innocent than they appear. His work is on display through March 1 at the Hibbleton Gallery in Fullerton (who knew they actually had art in Orange County?!), but you can also see it on his many websites, including the one for Silhouette Masterpiece Theatre. Signed prints of these, as well as booklets, cards, and even soaps are also available on his online store, the Bazaarium. Check it out (found via Design Observer).
Posted by Jon Berry at 11:31 PM
February 19, 2009
In trying to continue to keep my travel tips more common, I'm trying to make them shorter and more frequent. Here's another very basic one: Sign up for a Frequent Flyer account for any airline that you fly on. There's no reason not to. Its free. If you never earn enough on a particular airline to use, you haven't lost anything. But let any flights you do take add up - even if over several or many years. (And you can also give your miles to someone else or even to a charity.) Now, in a later tip, I'll go into ways to choose one of those accounts and maximize your miles on that one account. It's not hard to earn enough in a year for a flight (or more) if you make a conscious effort to. But in the meantime, at least make sure you're signed up for accounts with any airlines that you fly, even if it isn't one you fly very often. Sign up online at the airlines websites just by entering your name and contact info. That's all it takes to start earning for what you may already be doing. Ya got nothin to lose.
February 18, 2009
This may be one that's only funny to me... Last week I had dinner with my friend Dave, and for some reason the subject of colonoscopies came up. I mentioned that my Dad had one a couple days earlier (a fact I knew because it was his facebook status - which is amusing in itself), and said I was surprised that he hadn't posted pictures of it on his blog. Well I was wrong, he had. Most of the post details the process and that it isn't really so bad (except for the preparation part of it). The funny part comes after the procedure (especially if you know Dad): "The next thing I remember is my wife asking me if I need anything. I'm told that I replied, "IPone". And that I next asked for my camera and mumbled something about taking a photo of the white wall! Well, I suppose I could have said worse." Dad also shares the photos above of him coming out of his stupor and one of Mom patiently standing by. It reminds me of when I was in college and went back home to get my wisdom teeth out. Alas, I had no iPone to ask for back then. I don't remember much but eating ice cream afterward and falling asleep on the couch watching Dumbo. Later Mom said something to me like "if that's what you're like after a party, you must be pretty fun." I think I had giggled all the way home from the Dentists office. If you'd like to read the full story on Dad's colonoscopy, including the photos (which I opted not to post here!), click here:
February 17, 2009
iPhone Apps are all the rage, and three design apps have come out that are worth knowing about if you don't already. The best designed of the three is the least functional, but maybe the one that might get the most use. Kern, despite the name, is not about kerning, but a video game similar to Tetris in which you visually try to place a letter in the remaining word as it falls from the top of the screen. It's a quick non-committal game thats easy to play for 10 seconds or 10 minutes, and a nice piece of design in itself. WhatTheFont is an app from type sellers myfonts.com. With it, you can take a photo of a piece of type, then upload it and go through a process to bring you to the name of the font in your photo. I have to admit, with several different tests, it never identified the font correctly, but the results page brings you to several similar fonts as well, so if you're looking for a certain style or family to peruse through and find the right one for your needs, this can still be useful. Another way to peruse through fonts by style is FontShuffle, from the folks at fontshop.com. Narrow down the style of typeface you need by category and keyword, and then shuffle through pages of options. And to top it off, WhatTheFont and FontShuffle are free, so why not? Enjoy.
Posted by Jon Berry at 11:57 PM
February 15, 2009
More shots from another walk through El Segundo... (I had to put my truck in the shop there the other day, and its the neighboring town to El Porto where I live). El Segundo means the second - and is named for Chevron's second oil plant which is the heart of the town (and the reason for its existence). Its a mix of old 50's-70's industrial buildings, architectural offices and new lofts, and both residential and commercial buildings that appropriately are often called Mayberry by the Sea. Its an odd mix that I find fascinating. Typography like in my earlier post exists often because it has never been changed in 40 years, but just as often because its new smart design. Colors and surfaces are detailed and vibrant. The town is full of history intermingled with bits of new life, along with some sleepy village thrown in for good measure, but slighted forever by its name.
Posted by Jon Berry at 11:54 PM
February 13, 2009
When my friend Myron and I went to New York for the All Star Game last summer, we rented a flat in the East Village about a block from Cooper Union. We couldn't have been happier with our base location in New York - it was a crossroads in every way you can imagine - age, race, culture - all blending in vibrant and electric ways in the area around Cooper Square and Astor Place which, though not square, acted as the public square for the area. Cooper Union is a tuition-free college of architecture, fine arts, and engineering - an odd juxtaposition of left brain and right brain. The school has just unveiled its new logo and identity system, designed by Stephen Doyle and Doyle Partners. In an uncanny and brilliant way, Doyle has captured everything I described above in the new logo that meets the schools desire for a fresh and provocative identity. In a New York Times column, designer and author Steven Heller speaks of it far better than I could hope to, so I'll quote parts of his column verbatim:
Doyle "had to symbolize the schools of art, engineering and architecture. His task was to represent science and art, or “two sides of the brain,” as he calls it, in a single icon, and he began by exorcising the ghosts of old bearded Cooper and Honest Abe. So instead of musty graphic artifacts, Doyle used light and transparency to suggest the intersection of art and science. “Cooper’s a quirky institution, so the mark had to reflect that,” he told me. “It had to reflect the imagination too.”' ... "The colors “could represent the three different schools, and the two shapes (the C and the U) could be science and art,” he said, but they are also just aesthetically pleasing." ... '“The words THECOOPERUNION are smushed because people always say the name that way,” Doyle explains. He adds that the words printed in color — “150″ (yellow), “Cooper” (red), “Years” (cyan) — were designed as a unit “so that the word ‘Cooper’ is an adjective” (i.e. 150 Cooper Years). And the gray of “The” and “Union” and red of “Cooper” are an homage to the late George Sadek, who headed the school’s graphic design department and established the color scheme for John Hejduk’s earlier renovation of the main building." ... "The box is free of gravity, symbolizing the imagination and suggesting a large measure of play."
Capturing so many aspects of an institution with such a simple and unconventional solution - it's just plain brilliant.
Posted by Jon Berry at 11:03 PM