6/27/16

Post Card - Glass House Dining Room, Elkhart Indiana Toll Road, 1962.

What was going on, on October 2nd, 1962? I know you leapt out of bed today and shouted that out your window. Stop it. Your neighbors are getting tired of your randomly chosen days in history top-of-your-lungs demands for gossip.

But today, we've got you covered. Who's your buddy?

Click for 1600 px wide.
On October 2th, nineteen hundred and the sixty two'nd, Some guy called Jim C. bought a post card at the Glass House Dining Room Elkhart, Indiana. He sent it to his buddy Gene B. with a mundane note on the back about work and being busy. The standard kind of non-secret stuff you put on a post card that any postal worker could read.

This was apparently a chain of restaurants called "Glass House". Also apparently, they looked like this from the outside:
Image courtesy of  what the watermark says it's courtesy of.


Looks like landscaping was not a priority for the Glass House restaurant chain. Anyhoo, yeah, here in The Future, this place looks kind of cool, in a mid century modern, Scandinavian design kind of way.

If you're nervy enough, you could buy this card for two dollars, and turn right around and try to sell it on Amazon for twelve dollars. Jeez! This must be how people make their fortunes on the vibrant and exciting post card flipping get-rich-quick scene.



But you know what you really need? You need a PNG of the specific scrub pattern on this post card. It's had a long journey from 1962, and it's been in the bottom of a lot of drawers before being slipped into a protective poly bag and put up for sale in a Chicago antique store (sale price: two bucks). The ink was scrubbed away, over fifty years' time, into this completely authentic pattern of scratchiness. Seems a waste to just ignore it.

The PNG is more or less white scratchy marks on a transparent background, so it won't look like anything much until you drag it onto another image (which will be instantly transformed into a charming artifact of a bygone era). So, here it is over black, just so you can see it. If you're right-clicking this little beauty into your image falsification tool box, the PNG is the one you want - not the JPG.

Just a JPEG. This is not the droid you're downloading.

PNG of the scrub pattern, with alpha channel BG. This is the one you want.

You're welcome, with a side of french toast and sausages!


6/23/16

Celanese Fortrel - Big Little Lord Fauntleroy

In 1969, what exactly the hell were you supposed to wear? There was simply no way to tell what clothes to put on before you walked out of the house and into The World, where public people could see you and form opinions about you. That's why the American culture was in such a hand-flapping tizzy at the time. It was a national nightmare.

Enter, this Celanese Fortrel ad in Esquire Magazine (the journal of privileged douchebags for over eighty years) to save us all. Thank, you, Celanese Fortrel! Shew!


Yep. there you go, American men. Wear this.

Just so you know that you're safe to walk while wearing those shorts, Celanese has knighted them with the title "walk shorts". Man! Talk about streamlining the putting-your-clothes-on procedure! See, most days, when you get dressed and then just stand there in your bedroom for fourteen hours until bed time, it doesn't matter what you put on. Jeans... a bath robe... or just slip into a really large carpet tube.... If you're standing, your options are totally open.

However, if, god help you, you need to get dressed and then "walk somewhere", you'd be totally screwed. You'd frantically tear through all your drawers and realize that none of your trouser items have names prefixed with the word "walk". Then you'd have no choice but to hang yourself, fashioning a makeshift noose out of your pants (which were presumably called "suicide pants"). But, thankfully, Celanese put an end to the tidal wave of affluent young men offing themselves out of fashion stress by finally producing Celanese Fortrel "walk shorts". You can safely walk in "walk shorts".

Release the doves, for Big Little Lord Fauntleroy has emerged from his Dressing Chamber with his parasol. What's he got planned for today? Well, there's tea on the lawn, and then, maybe a bit of  a rest from all that effort, and then croquet practice, and then perhaps a biscuit, and then perhaps some mincing about in the drawing room, and then tea with the Chancellor, another rest, and then viewing the latest fashions from Celanese, in preparation for the dressing procedure on the morrow. Oh, the worry! Such a life!

Big Little Lord Fauntleroy looks familiar. I think we've seen him recently looking equally silly, but slightly less pansy. Where was that? To the Chamber of the Archives!

A-HA! The guy on the left in today's ad - who looks like a fake James Garner - was Kerchief Man in a Day's Sportswear ad that we ran about a month ago. Observe this link. Here's his head next to his head, just in case you for some reason have a hard time believing this.

Big Little Lord Fake James Garner Fauntleroy Kerchief Man, always daring you to laugh at his clothes.

Yep, Big Little Lord Fake James Garner Fauntleroy Kerchief Man loves to rock the kerchief, but then so did lots of people in '69. Why was that? Did people live in constant fear of unexpectedly being offered some crab legs, and having nowhere to dab their lips? What a marvelous time it must have been. Such plenty. Such bounty!

"Celanese Fortrel". Double-you tee eff are those words? Did people men who read Esquire in 1969 go "Celanese Fortrel, aah, yes, of course."? Are we, here in The Future, supposed to have some recognition for those words? Well, from the context of the ad copy, "Fortrel"'s full name is "Fortrel Polyester", but apparently its friends can just call it "Fortrel". So, "Fortrel" is marketing bullshit for "polyester". Aah, yes, of course. Marketing Bullshit. So what's "Celanese"? The name of the company?

Well, the Phil Are GO! Research and Googling Team found that, when you type those letters in that exact order into a search engine, it is revealed that Celanese is, in fact, the name of the company. It is also revealed that, two days ago, Celanese had a bit of a "whoopsie" with one of their chemical storage tanks down in South Carolina.


No spill. Shew! Also, no pants. This Celanese facility makes paint, it seems. So, the flow of  walk shorts remains uninterrupted all these years later! Well done, Celanese! Also well done, The Spartansburg County Hazmat Team! You saved us! After all, we're all wearing walk shorts, not "flee in complete terror shorts". If only Celanese would devise some kind of cunning "walk-flee shorts", we could walk and then decide to suddenly flee without needing to go home and change first.


6/20/16

Moon robot designs, 1962 - Thinking outside the toybox.

In 1962, the moon was still this strange thing made of cheese. Either that, or just the largest hole in the curtain surrounding the Earth, which, by the way, was the center of the universe. So, engineers were trying pretty hard to design a vehicle that could make its way across an unknown moonscape of nearly any food type imaginable - from cheese to rocky Cap'n Crunch consistency.

The ironically un-creative term "thinking outside the box" hadn't been horribly invented yet. What was the world like when mediocre minds didn't have the worn-out phrase "outside the box" to throw around? The best brains of  '62 had to use the less quotable but far more accurate word "inventing" to describe what they were doing, which is just as well. This left the useless idiots of society free to make up snappy phrases to describe what they themselves were incapable of doing.

Please enjoy this full article from the March '62 issue of Popular Science. And try to remember that all these robots were designed by adults... even the RCA ones. Sheesh. The GM designs look far less embarrassing.

Not that you did, but if you ask me, the most plausible idea presented in this article is the screw-drive moon rover. Don't miss the FaceTube video of a Russian-built screw drive ATV at the bottom of the post. It works better than you'd think.

You know the drill. Click each one for a full size 1600 px tall version.







6/17/16

Little ads - Status symbols for '68.


Best of all, you will probably maybe never find yourself explaining this to a judge, or the DCFS.

Maybe because he has finally found the most perfect long-term solution to his problem, maybe because
the product has the most reassuring name possible, the pictured boy truly does look very satisfied that
his embarrassment has been finally and permanently prevented.

Why spend hours polishing out those cracks in your legs' clear coat with an orbital buffer? Cover-Up also conceals wayward Sharpie marks. 

6/16/16

6/15/16

Shop Talk - Our Man in Space halftone pattern demonstration. And scrubs!

So, today the P.A.G! mail room was inundated with a flood of one email about the Our Man in Space post from yesterday. A guy called Jack wanted to know how to create the "moire" pattern we used on our replacement space background. It's a trick the Phil Are GO! Graphic Blandishment and Photoshoppery Brigade use all the time to make the fake magazine covers and stuff like that, so why not show all of you in the peanut gallery how to falsify some vintage documents of your own? Hooray for visual dishonesty!

For those of you not interested in the nuts and bolts of graphical chicanery, you may want to look at Slate or something just now. Also, Liar Town USA is pretty funny if the news is too depressing. See you tomorrow.

For those of you who stayed, here's jack's electro-letter:

Phil,
I was checking out the sci-fi book cover and noticed that you have chopped it into parts that we fellow designers can play with. I have to thank you for the “scrub” template – been trying to find a good one of those forever! My question is – how did you create the moirĂ© pattern on the purple background? I have been attempting to recreate that pattern for a while now to no avail. Any info you can offer would be pretty darn amazing! And thanks again!
-Jack






Thanks for the kind words, Jack!

What Jack's talking about is this (see left). That grainy, screeny pattern?  That's called, in printing terms, a "halftone pattern". These are basically a way to simulate smooth gradients of tone with a limited selection of colored inks. 










If you ask Google about it, it will show you this:

History time!! Whee!!

But this idea is older than printed medium. If you think about it, this trick is basically what the impressionists were doing. You know that famous painting by Seurat? Yeah, that old thing. It's all dots, but when you step back, or squint your eyes, or just go slowly blind (as some impressionists were doing), it looks like smooth gradations of color.


Seurat used dots, but other impressionists used dabs of paint or short strokes. The point is, strategically selected (or "dithered") picture elements (later called "pixels"), can look like smooth color, even if you don't have an infinite selection of colors to paint with. Handy.
Printing generally uses four colors: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black, or CMYK. Your desktop printer may have more ink tanks than that, but that's their problem. Offset printing like magazines and stuff use CMYK almost without exception. They way they get the appearance of every color in the world comes down to scattering tiny dots of those four colors in a very clever way that tricks your eyes into thinking you're seeing millions of colors. The better the printing machine, the smaller the dots. Ink dots these days can be freaky small.

Yeah. History. Great. So anyway...

Back to Our Man in Space and his ball.


Here's a closeup of the book cover. The original is on the left. The space background was so obstructed by text that it seemed simpler to just paint up something similar than to try and rub out all the letters in the original. So, that's on the right. We painted the replacement using Corel's Painter, because of its excellent variety of brushes with virtual hairs and things like that. For simulated painting, Painter is The Shit. But, lots of people paint in Photoshop, which is fine, because most people haven't heard of Painter.

Supergeeks may notice that the "painted bg" layer is a "smart object". Turning the background into a S.O. just allows you to keep all the filters and effects re-editable later on. It also give syou the option to easily fade on or off the opacity of the effect you create. If you do what we're going to do to a plain old layer of pixels, the effects are permanent, and if you want to change them, you'll be relying on your history palette or "undo" function. Right click the layer and "Convert to Smart Object".








First thing to simulate the halftone pattern is to select the layer you want to filter in the layers palette (in ours, it's the "painted bg" layer) and go to FILTER/PIXELATE/COLOR HALFTONE.

You'll then see this dialog box. If you want to go mad and become unemployable, feel free to mess with the different channels settings. But basically, the "max radius" is all you need.

This is one of Photoshop's filters that doesn't give you a preview of the effect, so you'll be doing some trial and error.

Also, the size of the dots in the generated halftone pattern are based on the size of pixels in your image. You can't make them smaller than 4 pixels. In my experience, the resulting dots are almost always bigger than you want. So, you may want to crank up the resolution of your image if for no other reason  than to force the halftone pattern filter to keep the damn dots under control.

Anyway, set the "max radius" to 4 px and hit the "this definitely won't be OK but I have no real choice" button.

There! Perfect!

Fuck.


Here's where that "fade off your effect" thing becomes important. 





Now that you've added some filters to your Smart Object's layer, they appear as "Smart Filters" on the "painted bg" layer in the layers palette. You can double click the "color halftone" thing, if, god help you, you want the dots even bigger. OR... you can double click the little sliders icon to the right of that and...


Fade off the color halftone pattern to something like 20%, so it looks roughly similar to the original book cover, and less like Froot Loops arranged by an OCD child.

"There! We did it! We're totally perfect!" No, you're not done. Sit back down.






Digital filters nearly always come out looking far too sharp. They tend to look more believable with a little blur smeared over the top. Second verse, same as the first. FILTER/BLUR/GAUSSIAN BLUR.


This time, you do get a preview window. In clear defiance of the laws of the universe, you can apparently blur something by a fraction of a pixel. In this case, 0.4 seems about the right amount of blur, but it's also clear that the halftone pattern filter looks a little too faded off. Click OK on the blur and have a look at the layers palette.

Remember the sliders icon on the right side of the "painted bg" layer? We can mess with that again and up the opacity of the halftone pattern from 20% to 25%

One more thing: The order in which the effects are layered in the layers palette matters too. For example, if you've added the blur, but it doesn't look like it did anything, make sure the blur effect layer isn't underneath the halftone pattern layer. The halftone pattern can easily hide the blur effect if it's on top. Drag them around in the layers palette to re-sort their order.


After that, the halftone pattern looks pretty okay. I doubt a perfect match is possible, given the peculiarities of whatever offset print pattern happened to be used on the book versus the filter in Photoshop. It's possible that somebody with a deep, borderline sexual understanding of printing techniques could manipulate those individual color channel options in the halftone pattern filter's dialog box could get it perfect. However, this is fairly decent. It should pass a casual "sniff test" for digital mimicry.


As our thanks to Jack for asking a good question, here are some more transparent "scrub" PNGs, pulled from ancient paperbacks and magazines. Do what you want with them, Jack, but if your deceptive image fakery gets you in trouble, I don't know you.

One is from that Dragonslayer paperback we posted a few months ago, and the other is probably from a nineteen thirty-something copy of Popular Science Weekly. You're welcome!

Click for 1600 px.

Click for 1600 px.