Today's find is an interesting conglomeration of things and I think a fairly appropriate way to end the year. Instead of ending on a hopeful tone or commiserating about how terrible this year has been, I've decided to go with the bizarre and semi-celebratory. Granted this is generally more my style anyway, as seen by the fact that this blog even exists, but during a time of rather bleak Facebook posts I felt people could use a break.
This sticker caught my eye because of the elephant and the fact that I could framed the photo with the spire in the background. It wasn't until I cleaned it up in Photoshop that I noticed an essential element of the sticker's uniqueness. Like Monday's post, it looks like the person behind this piece used a Federal label for it's base. If you look above the elephant's head you can clearly see the words Hazardous Waste. It isn't until you zoom in that you can see below the drawing the phrase "Handle with Care" and the blank field lines under the drawing. It's rather hard to tell which exact label it is but I'd say it's a pretty safe assumption that it is an official one.
The drawing itself is fairly interesting. It's a pink elephant which, if you've managed to avoid Dumbo and many other references, is typically associated with drunken hallucinations. There were a couple of other creatures with varying descriptions that were also associated with hallucinations but the pink elephant became the idiom of choice by the early 1900s. In addition to the elephant, the phrase "Where am I, send me home" in a rather stylized font is amongst the many items on the sticker. In combination the whole sticker tells an interesting story. I feel like the pink elephant is asking to be sent home after being dragged into the drunk's mind. That the ingesting of booze not only creates a hazardous waste but can, in a way, be considered a hazardous waste. While I'm sure the sticker serves as a warning or a statement against alcohol, I enjoy how all of the pieces work together to tell the story.
All in all I thought that this was a great way to end the year. Since a main element associated with New Years Eve is champagne and parties, I think there will be plenty of pink elephants out and about. There's also some room for a bit of trippy fun at this time where people start getting serious with ideas of change and resolutions. Hopefully you have a great New Year's Eve, don't get too caught up with your pink elephants, and enjoy this final entry for 2016. Oh and just because I can, here's some pink elephants on parade.
I'm going to apologize upfront, this isn't going to be great. I just got back to Pittsburgh after doing a good portion of the 5 hour drive from my parent's home, the second time in three days actually. So I'm rather fried and not terribly contemplative. Granted I could put the post off, give myself more time to come up with something a bit more clever, but I feel like if I start giving myself allowances now I'm just heading down a dangerous rabbit hole. It's honestly a little surprising that I've managed to keep it up this long without missing a post, they may get up late on Monday and Thursday but at least I'm mildly consistent. Anyway here goes nothing.
I am by no means a health conscience person. I may tend to prefer vegetable heavy meals and I'll always choose some type of fowl over other types of meat but I have no dietary restrictions I follow. I'll eat anywhere, try just about anything, and can't say I've ever really put much consideration into those calorie counts they list on menus nowadays. Although I don't put much stock in health crazes or condemning places for their menus, I can appreciate the sticker placement here. While Wendy's is typically considered to be one of the better options, or at least they've made it one of their advertising gimmicks, it's still definitely something to be careful of. With their creation of the Baconator and of course the sneakiness of bad salad ingredients, it can be dangerous when you're not really thinking about it. I don't think you can get a much better combination of the sign's "Quality Is Our Recipe" with the sticker. I rather doubt anything they serve is corrosive in the body, I would think it would be the cause of a building of layers than the destruction of them, but the point is still a valid one.
Another element that I can really appreciate about this find is the sticker itself. It actually is an official Department of Transportation label for shipping dangerous materials. Not that getting the sticker is terribly difficult, a website I found was selling them at 500 a roll for $26. It is a bit of a commitment though, especially if the person who placed the sticker isn't an individual that sends corrosive materials around the country. There's also the fact that this is the only one of these that I've found around the city so far. I can guarantee there are far more vilified food stuffs and restaurants people often make more statements about than Wendy's. Although this is one of the few fast food restaurants in Lawrenceville, which probably plays a large part in this sticker statement. Sadly the sticker is no longer there, I've happened to walk by it and the restaurant obviously removed it from their sign. Yet it's the thought that counts and certainly fun while it lasted.
Logos tend to be an essential element in determining how successful a company or business is. While there are plenty of companies that operate behind the scenes successfully, most need that element of recognition to reach their customers. Logos and brands have become such a pervasive element in our lives that there are multiple quiz apps out there testing your ability to recognize the giants of consumerism. (Not that I'm judging people who take them, I definitely spent about month trying to get through one before my short attention span finally kicked in.) Although large companies can get away with simple and minimalist designs, smaller businesses typically need more unique ones to garner that same recognition and attention. Today's sticker is definitely a great example of the latter.
This local logo is one of the few that I easily recognize and actually know the location of the business. For those who don't know it, this is the logo for Row House Cinema over in Lawrenceville. It's a small theater that specializes in showing a collection of older films that share a common theme. Right now they are obviously celebrating Christmas, however with a collection of movies that aren't immediately recognized as holiday films. Granted they are showing The Muppet's Christmas Carol and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (which are seasonal musts) but there's also Die Hard and Gremlins, that I often forget are set at Christmas. I find this general concept to be a wonderful and unique way to add some variety to the area's entertainment community. Unfortunately I haven't had the chance to see anything here yet, despite my love and mild obsession for films. It's been on my list of Pittsburgh activities to do for a while, so seeing these stickers around the city are a nice reminder of something that I really need to get around to.
I find this sticker to be a particularly intriguing one, it's not everyday you find a pigeon with a camera for a head. It certainly makes it a memorable image, so a great logo, although a seemingly odd choice. There are definitely a large amount of pigeons here in the city but they're not exactly something that's unique to Pittsburgh. I would think that a penguin would be a far more apt choice of bird to represent the city, although I'm sure that opens up a can of worms that isn't worth the headache. Rather than sit here and try to guess at what the reasoning behind the logo is, I decided to ask the theater directly. The general manager Theo Ackerson actually got back to me answering my question, fully admit super exciting moment to see that email. Here's what he had to say:
"When we were doing construction on the building (it was not originally a theater), there were times when the inside of the building was open to the elements. A few families of pigeons decided to make the future Row House Cinema their home. After we finished construction, we migrated the pigeons out of there. When it came time for the logos and branding, we wanted something unique and recognizable. Our branding team gave us a few options, and the one with the pigeon was our favorite!"
I find this to be such a fun little story. The fact that they decided to incorporate the pigeons that were living in the theater into their brand is a great little tidbit. It's certainly a very city thing to do. The addition of the camera as a head allows you to put the pieces together, that it's a city theater that deserves some looking into. I wanted to send Theo a quick thank you for answering my question and I hope that I've managed to do the logo justice. Since my next post won't be until the 26th, I'm wishing everyone a very early Merry Christmas and a Happy Holidays.
As I mentioned before, a large portion of the stickers that I seem to be finding are promotional stickers for various elements of the music industry. Today's sticker is another example of this interconnection of stickers and music. One thing that is a rather fascinating part of this intricate relationship is the different ways these stickers are presenting their groups. Some are focused on highlighting the name of the band or group, putting it upfront and center to let the audience know exactly what they're looking at. Others highlight a logo of the group, typically an image that will draw your eye and force a little more interaction with the sticker. Often you really have to get in close to not only see the image but also the name of the group which is hidden somewhere. And others, like this one, require a bit more connection with the sticker.
At the bottom of the sticker, in a slightly different font, you can see the words In the Wake of Giants, well not really in this photograph but I have gone back to the pole to make sure I knew what I was talking about. Looking this up I got two results, a Pittsburgh band and a film about whales and the ocean. While there is technically that chance this sticker is tied to a film, it seemed terribly unlikely. Even though the band's website doesn't immediately connect the dots, validating that the sticker belongs to the group, you can see that they use the same font for the name on the sticker as they do on their site. Heading to their Facebook page did give me the vindication I was looking for in the end. Scrolling through their old posts I saw an announcement in 2012 about their upcoming sticker, which is this one...so yay.
Listening to their last album "Forever", their sound seems to be in the same vein as Rise Against. Not quite screamo rock but a bit too harsh to be just rock. They describe their sound as post-rock/ post-punk, which I'm sure is true, I am by no means any sort of expert. It's not quite something I would listen to on a regular basis, I've wandered more towards the folky indie direction of alt-rock, but it definitely was an interesting listen. I think part of it is the concept of the album. Each song is named for a measurement of time and each I'm sure furthers this idea of how we measure forever, although this is a bit of a guess on my part as I had trouble making out many of the lyrics. I can't tell if In the Wake of Giants is still an active band in the Pittsburgh scene, their album is from 2012 and they haven't posted anything on their page since 2013, but I rather hope they are.
I think what's always caught my eye about this sticker is the phrase. One of the reasons I listened to their album was to try and see why they chose this particular phrase for their sticker. I couldn't quite make out the lyrics on the album as I mentioned earlier, so I can't say I see the connection of the phrase with the group. But no matter the origins of the phrase "You should never see me like this" just connects with me. I admit part of it is probably my own reluctance to show my feelings during hard times. It's not because I don't think others can or want to help out, more just having to admit a sense of defeat in the situation. A little ridiculous I know but that feeling of being a burden on others bothers me more than suffering in silence. Granted I will reach out to friends and family when things start to get too bad, there is just that desire to solve things myself and to avoid dragging others down with me. And I think that's why this phrase gets me, it's not really about hiding from one's problems but minimizing it's affects on others.
I may be being a bit too harsh on myself, but I feel like the last couple of posts have been a bit, well blah. They seem stiff as I'm writing them and probably uninteresting to read. Part of it is surely due a decent case of winter blues that have hit me hard these last couple of weeks. I'm really not a cold weather kind of girl and spend most evenings wrapped up in multiple layers and blankets. I have become truly adept at being a 5'9" burrito after I get home from work. This lack of movement might account for the stiffness, but it's definitely something that needs to be adjusted. So here's my attempt to brush off the cobwebs, *shudder* k let's do it.
When I worked in the strip district I would walk home every day, often taking the same route back rain or shine. So when I started this project back up I used this walk as the starting point for gathering my collection. Very early on in this gathering I found this gem and it's remained one of my favorites. I fully admit I was little overly thrilled when it caught my eye on the snowy walk but honestly who wouldn't be excited finding Inspector Gadget. It's such a great close up of the classic image of Gadget reading his instructions and when you get really in there you can see that the writing says "This message will self-destruct while you're reading this." Along with the wonderful reference, there is also the interesting fact that it's signed by jorts. I'm not sure if it's actually by the same artist but there are a collection of handwritten messages around the city which are also signed by jorts. I haven't featured any here yet but I can guarantee they will be. If they are by the same person, I am definitely intrigued by the big difference in styles but it's not something I can quite deduce at the moment. Either way jorts definitely knows how to draw a person in.
I loved Inspector Gadget growing up, I totally used to pretend that I was Penny and would talk into my watch. There was just something brilliant about the bumbling detective who rarely did things right but somehow got the credit every time. It was always up to Penny and her dog Brain to save the day, solve the mystery, and ultimately thwart Dr. Claw. Clearly it's poking fun at the popularity of shows like Columbo and the Six Million Dollar Man during the 80s, although this was lost on me as a child. I enjoyed the silliness of the show, even if it was same formula every time. I even loved the movie when it came out, although obviously disappointing now upon rewatch. I think what stuck out about the movie the most for me was the fact that a portion of it was filmed here in Pittsburgh. I remember my dad specifically pointing out to me that Claw's office was PPG Place and it was building that I was familiar with. For a long time it was the glass castle from Inspector Gadget, never the actual name of the building, when I would see it on trips into the city. Any way I look at it though, this piece of nostalgia is a wonderful connection between what was probably a part of that spark of enjoying mysteries and those many visits to Pittsburgh.
As the saying goes, you should never judge a book by it's cover and I continually find that it's true. That the things you see everyday often hold the more intriguing discoveries in life. Those objects, buildings, and elements you never think twice about because they're just part of the background are usually things worth digging into. Admittedly this project is a regular study of this, shining a light on common objects because they happen to have a sticker on them. But even I get surprised by the stickers I find and the stories behind them, especially on ones that I see everywhere.
This diamond sticker is quite possibly one of the most prolific ones around the city. I'm fairly certain that this reflective image has caught my attention in every neighborhood I've wandered so far in my search. Although there is the chance that I only think this because I see it almost every day getting off at my bus stop in the evening. Either way this shiny diamond is a regular sight in my day and does typically catch my eye. On the other hand, it's blended so much into my background that I really wasn't expecting much from it when I started to research it. I assumed it was just a simple design to put an artist's name out there. I mean there really isn't much to gleam from it when initially seen, just a clean traditional diamond shape with a reflective surface to let it stand out.
Technically I wasn't wrong, it is the logo of a local band but their esthetic isn't as simple as it seems. If you look to the right of the sticker you'll see a small line of text, which when magnified on my computer, reads thebeautyslap.com. Heading to their website I found another rather simple design, giving you a photo of the band and links to their social media outlets. It also describes the band as a party-brass-thunder-funk, which made zero sense to me but I continued down the rabbit hole. Beauty Slap in the end is a Pittsburgh band that combines the traditional big sound of a brass quartet with techno. Admittedly a tad weird to read or digest, but once you hear it it makes complete sense. Their clean designs and seemingly simple esthetics hide their complicated sound, causing you to have to really dig in to fully get what you're hearing. They've definitely come up with a fairly unique sound and one that Pittsburgh seems to really enjoy. This year they played not only at small venues around the city but also the Thrival Festival and Light Up Night. In the end they are a bit of a diamond in the rough and something I'll have to keep an eye out for in the future.
One thing I have found to be mildly surprising is how much music as an industry relies on stickers for their advertising. So far I've managed to find five different bands in four of my previous posts and I know there are far more in the collection. It obviously makes sense as a method of promotion; they're small, easy to stock and store, I would assume fairly affordable, and I'm sure they are just as effective as word of mouth to garner attention. I think what I find so intriguing about this is how varied the locations of the bands have been. I've seen bands from Philly, Maryland, even Vancouver, and a couple of big names that are on the radio. Granted Pittsburgh is a fairly large city in the grand scheme of things, and therefore a fairly frequent tour stop, but the fact that someone felt the need to put these stickers up is fairly interesting. Who knows why they put them up, we just have the memory of their time here or a fan's loving support.
Outside of Silky's I happened to notice these two stickers. I really liked the fact that I could juxtapose them against the bar's sign in the background, giving me a slightly different photo. I also found the style of Denver Noise Fest interesting. Looking it up, it turns out to be an experimental music festival in Denver that features bands from around the world. I can't say I've heard of any of the bands that are playing in it but they seem to be an interesting mixture of local bands, Texas bands, and even one from Tokyo. Looking at the line-ups over the years, I really only see two bands from Pennsylvania that kind of make sense as to how the sticker made it's way here: MACRONYMPHA from 2015 and Syphilis Sauna in 2011. This particular sticker seems to be their logo from the 2011 festival, they change it every year, so I think that the second band is more likely. Either way I enjoy the fact that a music festival 21 hours away is getting represented here in Pittsburgh.
Before I end today's post I wanted to make a quick mention of the second sticker in the photo. Obviously I can't really make out what this sticker was originally about since it's been torn away. I would really be interested in what they were trying to stop, especially since it ends on such a positive note. I know I've featured fading stickers before but the disintegration of stickers is something I do find interesting. No two stickers ever wear away the same and the remnants left behind are usually just as intriguing to look at as the whole thing is. I know I have quite a few from over the years, so that could be a later month's theme I would just need to figure out how many things I can come up with to say about these kind of images.
Graffiti and street art, I find, is at it's best when it really utilizes it's surroundings. From high end artists like Banksy to the small local finds like this Mario coming out of a pipe (sorry it's pretty far down the page), the more creatively they use the space the more poignant the work is. They don't always have to be thought-provoking and my favorites tend to be really silly ones that just brilliantly use one element of the street. I find stickers can really be put to great use to accomplish this goal of using a space. Whether playing off the words of a sign or just finding a great way to frame their picture, it's always a treat to find these examples of creative utilization.
When I originally found the sticker, I was immediately struck by the intimate nature of it. It's such a small sticker that you really have to get up close to see all the details. This photo is actually a different exposure, the first time I saw this sticker was on a pole near East Liberty. I had to make multiple attempts to get that original exposure, trying to find the right distance to fully capture that same feeling of intimacy. And while I'm sure the creator is making a statement about hipsters, it does kind of feel like a peek behind the curtain. The look of contemplation with the pipe and phone, granted purposely over the top, does seem to fit this man's general attitude. And while a little weird, I can totally see others choosing this method of relaxation on a rainy day.
Noticing this sticker here on the walk signal button, I knew that this would be the better photo. The way the button frames the sticker is definitely far more compelling and plays a bit more with your perception of it. Since the button is curved, it causes the light to reflect off the sticker making it appear like he's actually under a bubble or that you're peering through a port hole. What started off feeling like a peek at the person, now has the feeling like you're peering through a window at him. There is also the fun fact that while it gives the feeling of peeking, it's unlikely that you'll notice him while you're pushing the button.
One idea that gets stressed a lot out there in society is that it's not always the destination but the journey that matters. In a way I guess this blog kind of follows that ideal. It's that initial hunt for these stickers and the research into them that I enjoy about this project. Hopefully you enjoy reading the final result here on the blog but it remains a personal journey with you meeting me at the destination. I haven't quite reached a point where I can get others involved in the process by either sharing their stories behind the image or sharing finds of their own. With this small lament aside though, I have managed to have one interesting encounter with this project.
I was wandering around East Liberty looking for new stickers this past August, when I found these. I can't seem to find anything on the PB cassette that is there, granted I'm just using Google to research, but none of the keywords I tried brought up anything. The LTE BUTTA also isn't being terribly useful, just a lot of rather bizarre butter jokes. The Banker Supply Co on the other hand actually has a mildly interesting story. It's a company that started here in Pittsburgh stocking innovative bicycles in the 1890s. The founder's sons eventually turned the company's direction towards the far more lucrative industry of automobiles. Today they have gone back to their roots selling bikes, clothing, and gear. They have two locations at the moment, one in California and the other here in Pittsburgh in one of the company's original car dealerships, which is actually near where I found this sticker. However while I find this story rather interesting, it's not why I enjoy this photo.
My sticker searches are admittedly rather awkward treks about the city. I wander for what can turn into hours, just walking up and down the streets looking for these stickers. I randomly stop in the middle of the sidewalk, point my camera at weird angles, kneel down on the ground, and even contort my body into weird shapes trying to capture something no one else can see. I can guarantee that I am frequently stared at and have people wonder about my sanity, but I've never had anyone question it. Part of it is obviously that everyone usually keeps to themselves when they are out in public, focused on reaching their end destination. I also generally walk around with headphones in, which is typically accepted code for don't bug me. This particular walk on Baum though was quite the exception.
I was attempting to find the interesting angle for this photo when a man passed by me. Instead of continuing on his way, he actually double backed to ask me a question. Initially he was just looking for directions to a coffee shop that wasn't Starbucks but decided to continue the conversation by asking what was so interesting about the wall that I was trying to photograph. Once I was over the initial shock, I told him that I was actually taking a picture of the sticker on the pole and pointed to it. He seemed to be rather surprised that I was bothering to photograph it, not because it was a terrible image but for him this was a terribly common place thing to see. You see he was a foreigner, I'm pretty sure somewhere European, and had even lived in London for a while. When I was sharing my project with him, he told me that I would go nuts if I ever went to London because there are stickers everywhere. He even knew someone who had created one, which he pulled out of his wallet to show me. I wish I had the forethought to ask him if I could take a picture of it but being the awkward thing that I am, I kind of just stumbled through the conversation. We quickly parted ways and I felt rather flushed by the whole thing. Granted I've always known that the stickers I see here in Pittsburgh are not a unique concept, but it was quite enthralling to hear it from someone else. This idea that not only could I find and discuss these stickers from around country but also from around the world was exciting one and something I hope to be able to pursue in other places some day.