Wednesday, February 3, 2010

NATO Phonetic Alphabet Book: S-T

Continuing on with the NATO Phonetic Alphabet Book (see previous post), I present to you the letters S and T.

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

NATO phonetic alphabet book

I like alphabet books. I like A is for Apple, the making concrete of letters that is accomplished by associating them with things. And of course, I like standards. This is why I'm working up a set of illustrations for an alphabet book based on the NATO phonetic alphabet (you know, alfa, bravo, charlie and so on). Below, some of the first illustrations.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Colour for everything, especially wool

The post below is cross-posted on my Open Colour Standard process blog, but I thought it would be worth a look here, too.

There absolutely needs to be an open standard for print colour. I'm behind that and I'm working on it. But I'm increasingly of the opinion that there's more to it than print and screen. There's a world of physical things that depend on some sort of colour specification, whether loosely defined and changeable or rigid and consistent. On that first count, the loose and changeable, I've gotten to thinking about yarn and other animal proteins like silk and even human hair.

Anyone who knits knows well the pain of not buying quite enough yarn to finish a project, going back to the store, and finding that the yarn you've been working with, while still called by the same name, is a slightly different colour than before. Eventually, you learn to buy more yarn than you think you'll need, just for the sake of consistency. That's the problem with dye lots. Every batch of yarn, while using the same dye and same general process, comes out slightly different.

I'm not proposing to necessarily solve the dye lot problem. I have a hunch that a large part of it comes down to white and the inconsistency of the base colour of wool. But it has gotten me thinking. Wool is an interesting test case. It's easy enough to deal with, it has good possibilities for home brew colour experimentation and, most importantly, there's the dye. Wool, being an animal protein, can be coloured with acid dye. Or, to you and me, food colouring.

The food colouring angle is a good one. One of the biggest challenges of thinking about a spot colour system is sorting out the physical colour. It's been a hurdle in my exploration of colour for print. How, the thought goes, do you decide what the gamut of inks going into the spot colours will be? Are those colours consistent across ink manufacturers? And so on. This is the appeal of acid dye. In North America, at least, there's a handy gamut all ready to go. It's the set of dyes prefaced with the letters FD&C (food, drug and cosmetic) or D&C (drug and cosmetic). That's a limited gamut of dyes already carefully regulated by a government body. It takes away the gamut decision and just leaves questions of application and method guidelines/best practices, as well as the development of physical colours from those dyes and the translation of those colours into digital.

In short, expect some proof-of-concept wool and hair dye experiments from me in the near future.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The scribble couch progresses

I'll admit to drawing on furniture. To me, a white couch is an excellent opportunity to do something interesting. So there's the scribble couch. It's perpetually in progress and has been for the last year and a half. Whenever someone comes over, they get handed to fabric markers. At the moment, it's covered in poetry, tic-tac-toe games and some pretty darn nice curvy floral patterns.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Quite some time ago, I mentioned a hair brained scheme: a sort of hyper-purist, pseudo-lambic beer. Here's more on that topic. The idea, which I've been batting around since a good while before the previous post, is to do a beer full of buzzwords. Vegan, Organic, Reinheitsgebot compliant, lambic and to a certain extent, vertically integrated. That's vertically integrated not to the extent of distribution, but to the extent of ingredients. And yes, that means grain fields. The beer would be lambic to the extent that pollen would be introduced through louvred walls in the brewery. Needless to say, it's likely to never happen, or to take a pretty long time if it does actually see the light of day. In the meantime, I'm playing to my strengths. It has a name (Mertgart) and a logo (below). Colour variations of the logo are shown. I'm still not sure which one I like.

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Saturday, November 7, 2009

Coping Mechanisms for the Young and Ambitious

Just over a year ago, I posted what I called "A Manifesto for ginger coons." Much of the text of that manifesto is back, in the form of a zine. Now, however, it's called Coping Mechanisms for the Young and Ambitious. Just in time for Expozine next weekend. Photos below.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Learn About Things I Know About

My traditional end-of-summer zine development time has come around again. This year, I think I've come up with quite a good idea. I'm working on a little imprint of zine books. They're going to be 5.5"x8.5" and either staple bound or sewn, between 20 and 40 pages each. And they're going to be accessible, understandable non-fiction. They're going to explain things to people who don't know about them. But they won't talk down to readers. I'm talking about literate, clever book zines for literate, clever people. The point is to broaden horizons and give people a comprehensive look at something they didn't know about already. The first one, about Open Source (cover pictured below) is underway. I'm also thinking of tapping someone to do one on gender. Expect to see these with me at Expozine 2009, whenever it rolls around.

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Monday, July 6, 2009

Political awareness alphabet book

I'm working on an alphabet picture book that explains some abstract concepts of slightly higher difficulty than "A is for Apple." Here's the text. Next, I need to get on with the illustration.

A is for Anachronism, history out of time
B is for Budget, accounting for every dime
C is for Concept, an idea not concrete
D is for Diaspora, relocated in retreat
E is for English, colonial language of kings
F is for Future, not the present state of things
G is for God, a personification of morals
H is for Habitual, resting on your laurels
I is for Iconoclast, who fights against the norm
J is for Judiciary, those who keep the bench warm
K is for Karat, measure of golden worth
L is for Legacy, what's left when we leave Earth
M is for Management, who would organize all
N is for Neophyte, hoping to walk after the crawl
O is for Origin, where you got your start
P is for Power, influence over mind and heart
Q is for Quiet, the absence of sound
R is for Reconnaissance, seeing what's around
S is for Secrets, words no one will tell
T is for Truth, which claimants preach at a yell
U is for Utopia, not as perfect as you'd think
V is for Vermin, one you dislike or a mink
W is for Waste, leftovers after use
X is for Xenophobe, reacts to strangers with abuse
Y is for Youth, both fetishized and hated
Z is for Zeal, passion not yet abated

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Friday, July 3, 2009

Lawbot: not done yet

A few days ago, I said that Lawbot and the Case of the Missing Copyright Infringers was done. That wasn't entirely true. There's more going on. I'm (hopefully) working on a version that includes an audio track to go with each page of text. Aside from that, you'll soon be able to find Lawbot out in the wild attached to another project. I'll give details on that when the time comes. I'm also trying to figure out how to get Lawbot into the real world as an alternate reality game. For now, here's a cartoon Lawbot and a less arty, more engaging synopsis of the project.

You may be infringing copyright without even knowing it. Lawbot can help. Lawbot and the Case of the Missing Copyright Infringers is a text adventure game created to teach the basics of Canadian copyright law. It drops you into a futuristic world where copyright enforcement has gone mad. On your quest to rescue your partner and set things right, you'll learn about things like fair dealing, infringement and alternatives to traditional copyright. Why would you want to learn about all that? Because you're probably infringing already and it's nice to know exactly what it is you're doing that bothers so many industries so much.

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Saturday, June 27, 2009


Here's an idea for an art piece. A lot of beer tends to get consumed at the openings of shows. The idea of the piece (which would be called Consigned) is to take all of the empties from the opening party and stack them up in a corner into a pyramid of beer bottles. It's like the huge piles of bottles that collect after house parties, waiting to be returned for the deposit. The pile would also include the consumption of the artist over the course of the show. After the closing party, when the show is being torn down, the bottles will be returned for the deposit, which would then be given back to the gallery.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Lawbot: done.

I've mentioned Lawbot and the Case of the Missing Copyright Infringers before. Well, now it's done. Or at least, it's in an intermediate state of done. If you click the above link, you'll find a pretty fun (if I do say so myself) text-adventure game that explains certain elements of Canadian copyright law. It may later get either sound or visuals. I'm not sure yet. Here's the little artist synopsis that I wrote about the project:

Lawbot and the Case of the Missing Copyright Infringers is, above all, a pragmatic project. The aim behind Lawbot is to broaden the public understanding of Canadian copyright law. Lawbot aims to do this in an approachable, perhaps even fun, and certainly accessible way. To this end, Lawbot borrows thematic elements from both adventure games and spy movies, weaving a slightly absurd, proto-futuristic kidnap-story narrative. Lawbot employs heavy-handed allegory and a pinch of copyright history to get across the point that a litigious approach to intellectual property protection isn't sustainable. Visually, Lawbot riffs off of early text based computer games. Lawbot is written entirely in HTML and JavaScript for optimal online usability and distribution.

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Making industrial boxfood at home

Earlier this year, I found myself explaining the procedure for making popcorn in a pot, on the stove, without pre-buttered, microwaveable kernels. I had never before realized that there are people who think that the only way to make popcorn is in a microwaveable bag. This revelation led to an idea: take foods that are best known in their instant format and create a cookbook/cookzine/cookblog explaining the procedure for making them the proper/old fashioned/slow/healthy way.

I can think of a few foods that might benefit from this treatment. Macaroni and cheese may be the most notable example. Among other boxfoods, though, there's stroganoff, french fries (which don't actually have to come out of a bag in the frozen food section), any number of sauces and salad dressings, the abovementioned popcorn and a whole legion of other foods. Suggestions in the comments, if you have something to add to the list.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Montreal Metro Map Circa 2032

One of my ongoing projects: imagining what Montreal's Metro system will look like in the future. Here's my fictitious 2032 Metro map, as released by the equally fictitious Societe de Transport du Quebec. (If you care to look at more fictitious future history, I collaborated on an article a couple months back about Montreal 2032, which you can read here.)

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Open Colour Standard properganda

Something from the Open Colour Standard project that I feel is worth cross-posting here: my ever so lovely OCS properganda (not propaganda) poster. It sells Open Source graphics programs the easy way: by explaining how cheap they are compared to the proprietary stuff. Enjoy.

EDIT (12 May 2009): Here's a new version of the poster with better kerning. And I'm replacing the downloadable one on the OCS website with this newer, more correct version.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009


There's a great big project that's been occupying my time for the last few months. I'm doing the preliminary work on the development of an Open Colour Standard (previously mentioned on this blog as OCI). The idea is to give Pantone a bit of a run for its money in the colour matching business. I think this is an area where community involvement and openness would be a huge asset. In the spirit of "release early, release often," here's a link to what I've been working on. At the moment, it updates far more regularly than this blog does.

Building an Open Colour Standard

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Friday, January 2, 2009

Books for walls

For several months, my living room has looked like a disaster, thanks to a particularly nasty shade of red on the walls. I'm not keen on painting a small room in a colour dark enough to cover the red. That means that my only real option is wallpaper. But wallpaper is expensive. Solution? Cover the walls in the pages of cheap, second hand teeny bopper romance novels. Six books (that's roughly 1200 pages) and 2L of podge later, two out of four walls are done. Once all four walls are done, up go the shelves and on with the books that are more for reading than tearing apart.

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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The joys of fridge ownership

I've been working on a wallpapering project involving old books and my currently uninspiring living room. I'm afraid it's made me a little glue happy. I realized last night that the big perk of owning a fridge (as opposed to having one provided by my landlord) is being able to modify it. So: old Archie comics Mod Podged to my decrepit fridge.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Observe phase one of a super exciting project I'm working on: A nice pair of binoculars. They're proof positive that I can actually do things that look clean.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Notebook skirt

I dreamed this idea a couple nights ago: a skirt made almost entirely of those colourful, spiral bound notebooks. I say almost because it would need some sort of structure to hold the books together, as well as a waistband. It would, of course, be horrendously uncomfortable, but I'm really picturing it as more of an art piece than an actual garment.

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A radical consultancy

The term "ginger group" was recently brought to my attention. Having done my little bit of research about it, I'm now a little bit in love with the idea of a group of people who exist to get everyone else thinking more radically. According to my beloved Wikipedia, ginger groups have traditionally been informal and organic and always within larger organizations.

Here's my clever idea: Create a ginger group for hire. It would essentially be a freelance ginger group, a consultancy that specializes in being radical. Looking for crazy ideas? Looking to get inspired? Hire the ginger group. I really must start such a consultancy one day because, of course, there's no one better for the job.

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Sunday, November 2, 2008

Scribble Chair

Below is a chair that's been in progress for two years. It's my ever so exciting scribble chair. It gets drawn on whenever I'm feeling bored. I'm hoping that one day, there won't be any white visible and the whole thing will be a mass of sketches and scribbles.

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Friday, October 31, 2008

OCI logo revisited

The OCI logo I was so pleased with yesterday has been replaced by the OCI logo that I prefer today. Behold! Progress! Magenta progress, in fact.
I think this one looks far more dynamic.

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A very dapper decal

Forthcoming: a decal depicting this man. I can't decide yet whether he should retain his line art glory or become a solid silhouette. Thoughts? Suggestions?

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Sketch people

I'm in a real silhouettes of people mood right now. That's a good thing, because I'm supposed to be doing some sketchy drawings of people for a conference. So, here's draft one of some sketchy purple people. While they aren't strictly silhouettes, they fulfill my urge to draw un-detailed people.

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

OCI logo

I've been building iterations of a logo for a semi-secret project that I'm calling the Open Colour Institute. You can guess what the project actually is, if you want. The important thing at this point is that I've come up with a logo that I think I like. And here it is.

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The Illustrated Cinderella

I'm working on a project right now called the Illustrated Cinderella. I'm using the original Grimm text and doing decoupage illustrations from public domain images. I'm hoping to get the project finished in the next month, in time for a debut at Expozine. In the interim, here are some of the things I'm working on.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008


There's a half funny, half serious idea I've been kicking around for the last few months. It's called the SPCC, or the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Creatives. The idea is twofold:

Part one of the SPCC is a helpline for bored and abused creatives. You're a designer who gets stuck cropping and resizing all day? Call and talk it over. Copy writer stuck with unreasonable deadlines and unresponsive superiors? Call the helpline and strategize. This half of the idea is quite similar to Designphone, an idea I blogged about last March. The main difference is that it would have a mandate beyond just serving designers and would instead be there for creatives of all types. It's part two that gets interesting.

Part two is basically a home for bored and misused creatives. Essentially, it's a retreat for creatives who just can't take it anymore. It would essentially be a sanctuary full of free time, other creative people, and the resources necessary to carry out personal projects. Creatives would be able to come down for a break from the monotony of doing boring, not terribly creative, creative work. It would also offer workshop retreats for open-minded management who would either like to reward their creatives with a break or learn how to be a little more creative themselves. Naturally, corporate rates would be rather different from the rates charged to individual creatives. Proceeds from corporate retreats would go to funding project scholarships for creatives with ennui.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Creatives: like that SPCA, only instead of saving animals, supporting commercial artists of all kinds.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

An interesting range of tables

I'd like to produce a range of tables with entertaining names and characteristics. The tables would have names like:

And so on... Do feel free to name more tables in the comments.

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Fork bookmark

Idea: Make bookmarks out of cheap cutlery. Cheap stainless steel cutlery is thin and easy to manipulate. Just hammer the curves out of a fork or spoon and you have a handy, awesome bookmark. Pictures when I make one.

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Ornamental humidifiers

Problem: My office is spectacularly dry in the winter. Dry air means dry skin and eyes. Dry skin means excessive use of hand cream. Dry eyes mean discomfort when staring at computer screens. Standard humidifiers are a hassle, and they look ugly, too.

Solution: To introduce more moisture into dry rooms, I've decided I need to build an ornamental humidifier. First, picture one of those little tranquility fountain things. You know, the tiny fountains that you plug into the wall and fill with water? So, take the fountain of your choice and introduce some heat into the works (I'm not quite sure how, yet, but maybe with some sort of well-shielded heating coil or something). Heat plus water equals vapour. Ta da! Something that looks less institutional and appliance-y than a humidifier but serves much the same purpose.

EDIT: Curses! It's been done already.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Sketchy animal stickers

Behold! I'm gearing up for Expozine 2008 by making some shiny new sticker/decal things.

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Vegan trading cards

Finally, after years of being asked what vegans eat, I'm tired of answering. As a result, I've devised a clever solution: vegan trading cards. Imagine little trading cards which, instead of featuring hockey players, picture and explain vegan food. Each card would have a picture of a typical vegan dish on the front (think: curry, stir fry, hummus, tabouleh, etc.) and stats about that dish on the back. The stats would show ingredients as well as nutritional information. It would be a fun way to answer a question that does get a little wearing after a while. Not only that, but the nutritional information would prevent the second question that non-vegans normally ask, namely "Where do you get protein/iron from?" They could look at the card, see that vegans eat a variety of tasty food, and then be shocked by how nutritionally complete those foods actually are. It would save the valuable minutes of my life that I currently wind up spending, trying to remember what I've eaten for the last few days.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Hot -but not burnt- feet

Right now, I have a problem. I'm using the radiator under my desk as an ottoman. The radiator is on, heating my office. As a result, my feet are slightly too hot. That's the problem.

Solution? I need to build some kind of shelf over my radiator. Something just a couple inches higher than the radiator would eliminate the burnt feet problem. Plus, I could put some sort of cushy cover on it without burning down the house, which is an option I don't have for the radiator.

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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Grocery Lists Quarterly

A set of assumptions and an idea:

  1. Copyright is automatic. Authors do not need to register their work, they simply need to publish in order to be protected by copyright.
  2. Publication can mean all sorts of things, not just books (in the case of print work).
  3. Grocery lists are original creative works. They are a product of the imagination given literary form. In form and content, they aren't very different from some types of poetry.
  4. Writing down a grocery list constitutes publication.
All of the above has been making me think for a while that I should be making sure to release my grocery lists into the public domain. But then, the question is, what's the point? Other than whimsy, is there a good reason to release something as ephemeral as a grocery list into the public domain? If there's only one copy, and that copy will be thrown out after use, is there a point in releasing grocery lists? So, I've come up with the following idea:

Grocery Lists Quarterly will be a zine devoted to grocery lists. It will be packed full of scans of real grocery lists. Grocery Lists Quarterly will provide intriguing snapshots of life, the tiny stories told by grocery lists. If you feel moved to contribute your lists, do send to

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Saturday, October 4, 2008

Instead of art

Boring walls? No art to hang? No problem. Here's a spectacularly cheap and easy way to break the monotony of long stretches of wall: hang your clothes. Just shove some screws into the wall at varying heights and hang your most interesting (or most frequently used) clothing. In my front hallway, I've hung all my outerwear and bags. It not only makes it way easier to find sweaters, but also gives the hall the benefit of some extra colour. Win-win!

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Friday, October 3, 2008

Spoon napkin ring

Yet another use for old spoons: Supremely awesome napkin rings.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Very clever blinds

I had an idea, coming up to a month ago, that i absolutely need to do. While I was moving and had a front room full of boxes, I got to thinking about what people would see if they were to glance at my window. Wouldn't it be awesome, I thought, if I had blinds that had a great big picture of a beautiful, well decorated room printed on them? So that's the idea: a venetian blind with a large photo of a nice looking room printed on the outside. That way, any curious window glancer would see, instead of what's actually in your house (or a normal, boring pair of curtains), a room good enough to be in a decor magazine. Awesome? Of course.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Another Kubla Khan

I'm kind of addicted to "Kubla Khan." It's a fantastic, profoundly strange and beautiful poem. It's also in the public domain, which lets me do nice things to it without infringing copyright. I've done an illustrated zine version in the past, I think I'm working on another. Just finished, though, is a very strange web based version.
It's kind of concrete poetry on the internet. Find it here.

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Thursday, September 4, 2008

Annual reports for people

People, if you think about it, are a fair bit like corporations. We all have shareholders, people who have an interest in how things turn out. Generally, we're each the majority shareholder in our own life. We accomplish things (and sometimes don't accomplish things we'd like), and set both long and short term goals. To this end, I've been working on my own annual report. Aside from the lack of financial information, it bears a pretty good resemblance to a normal annual report. Of course, mine may pay a little more attention to style than some corporate annual reports.

For your edification and amusement, I present to you the cover of my 2008 annual report:

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Barrel of hair clips

Quick idea, as found in my sketch book this morning (I don't remember writing it down, but I'm clearly the one who wrote it): Barrel of hair clips. i want to make hair clips with Barrel of Monkeys monkeys on them. Now I just need to get my hands on a Barrel of Monkeys. Pictures when the clips are ready.

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An idea for a glossy zine

Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous doesn't entirely appeal to me. It just frustrates me to see people who already have everything. It frustrates me because they have it and I don't. It frustrates me because I think it's pretty boring to look at what people do with their vast riches. These people have no reason to innovate or stretch. I have a better idea.

I've dreamed up yet another darn idea for a (maga)zine. I want to do something called Lifestyles of the Poor but Hopeful. I want to look at what people can do with less. How awesome can you make a cheap apartment on a low wage budget? If I'm to judge by some of the places I've seen, people can still do some amazing things with nothing. It strikes me as far more fascinating to see what clever people with less can do than what boring people can do with more.

I think I want to make a marginally glossy zine on this subject. We'll see how it goes. Maybe look for the first installment at Expozine this year. Maybe.

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Friday, August 8, 2008

An Easier Website

I was in a design meeting at work today. The complaint: Clients ask for "cleaner" or "more professional" websites. So, the boss muses out loud that we can't just adjust and make a website sixty percent cleaner. It struck me at that point that there should be a way.

Solution: Take a representative sample of people. Give them a word (professional, clean, edgy, etc.). Give them a pile of design elements (colours, layout pieces, whole layouts, typography, all that good stuff). Get them to rate each element on how much it matches their perception of the given word. Look for patterns in the responses. Sort by demographics, psychographics, industries. Take the data. make a website generator with a very simple interface: a white screen with a number of slider bars, where each bar represents a scale of zero to one hundred for a given trait (edgy, contemporary, clean, professional...). Any person who wants a website need only key in a little pertinent information about themself, and then move the sliders to get what they want. Press the button. Don't like the output? Move the sliders some more.

So, I'm sensing another thesis. Doctorate, maybe? The research should be fun and doable. It's just the actual programming that I'm a little scared of. But it could make a good collaboration with a computer science person.

If it actually worked, I'd put myself out of the web design business. On the upside, I'd secure my place in other circles.

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Very picky beer

Latest project that may never see the light of day: a totally wonderful organic, vegan, Reinheitsgebot compliant, pseudo-lambic beer. Also, it has a made up name and a pretty logo. The whole thing is meant to appeal to a young generation of picky, snooty beer drinkers. If it ever sees the light of day, I'll write about it in more detail. If it flops completely, I'll still write about it in more detail. Until either of those happens, I have a fun secret to keep.

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Monday, June 9, 2008

Cyclist pants

Fact: most cyclists cinch or roll one leg of their pants so that it won't get caught in the bike chain.
Logical conclusion: Make a pair of pants with one leg shorter than the other.

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Sunday, June 8, 2008

A cocktail dress from a cocktail shaker

I'm working on a pretty interesting project at the moment. My favourite little gallery is having a rummage sale right now. They're inviting artists to take something from the sale and get inspired. The finished works are going to be shown at the closing party. So, you might ask, what kind of object did I take and what am I doing with it? I took this completely killer mid century cocktail shaker. It happens to be massive, as well as super classy. It's made of glass and has red, gold, and black birds printed on it. What am I making, then? As the title of the post says, I'm making the cocktail dress that should go with it. It has an empire waistline, and the bodice is entirely crocheted. That gives it a pleasant sense of both weight and naffness. The crocheted bodice is in cream and brown and looks very mid-century housewife. The skirt, though, is where it gets interesting. There are some disorganized strands of crochet, but the majority is a solid red jersey with gold birds drawn on. That's all the stuff that's actually finished. What I'm still working on is attaching shiny things to it. After all, I need to make it match the shiny bits of the shaker. For that, I'm employing little tiny plastic charm bracelet ornaments of helicopters and astronauts, as well as junk jewellery. That last bit of ornamentation won't be happening until my thumb recovers from the crochet marathon. Pictures when the whole thing is done.

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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Labour of Love

I've been noticing lately (or always, take your pick) that love and romantic interpersonal relationships are a pretty frequent topic of discussion among people. Whether it's a discussion about loving and losing, or a horror story of spectacularly garbled communication, or the standard junk you find in every woman oriented magazine in existence, the concept of romantic love is everywhere. This is cool, because it happens to be a fun topic to discuss.

Because romantic love is interesting to talk about, and because I've been needing a nice, entertaining project to add to my already full plate, I've decided to start (another!) new zine. I'm calling it Labour of Love, and it truly is going to be one. It's going to be my prettiest zine yet, and I'm even going to try to publish it on a semi-regular basis. Basically, because everyone likes to talk about it, I'd like to add a little deeper thinking to the topic of love, in an entertaining and well packaged zine.

If anyone other than search engine spiders are reading this, I'm totally welcoming suggestions on this one.

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Unions as personal shoppers

Some people like to buy North American cars. They think that by buying a GM or a Ford or some such, they're helping to keep jobs in Canada. There's no guarantee, though, that any given domestic car isn't, in fact, made in Mexico. This is the issue: how do you know which car is actually made in Canada? Would you, in fact, be better off buying a Toyota made in Cambridge? Enter a clever idea for a website that I know I'm never going to get around to doing.

If you ask the car salesperson where any given care is made, and where the components are from, s/he isn't terribly likely to have good answers. You could ask the company itself, but that means getting bogged down in automated phone system hell for every make of car you're interested in. It's probably easier to just ask your friendly neighbourhood auto workers union. That's a bit of a hassle, though. It takes a motivated consumer to do such homework. So, why not have a website that aggregates product recommendations from the people who actually make those products? The CAW tells you which cars are actually made in Canada, garment workers tell you which brands give them a reasonably fair deal. I think it would be a very useful little tool. And I'd totally use it, too. But do I look like I need another project in the pipeline?

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

My version of Cinderella

I'm sure that every kid (Or maybe every girl. I suppose it's a pretty gender specific story) has their own version of Cinderella. It's the version that they hear at bedtime, the version that they've added to and that they and their parents know by heart. Most likely, the end isn't resolved, because they fall asleep before that point in the story.

I'm pretty fond of my version. I still use it sometimes, too. When I have unshakable insomnia, the tiniest bit of my very politically correct Cinderella puts me to sleep without fail. Last night, I got to thinking that my version is a little strange. Most of the time, Cinderella's father is a widower. Not so in my version. Instead, her mother isn't absent because she happens to be a super important globe trotting archaeologist. My land far far away isn't a straightforward kingdom, it's more of a constitutional monarchy. You can tell that I added the constitutional monarchy bit later in life, can't you?

I've decided that it might be fun to actually put into writing my version of Cinderella. I am concerned, however, that trying to write it might put me to sleep.

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Saturday, May 10, 2008

More on video stores

First of all, I need to point out that Movieland is the only name for a video store. It's like calling a bowling alley Bowlerama. It's just the natural order of things.

So, I was in Movieland the other day (seriously) and I decided to carry out a little preliminary research for my video store study. I had a little chat with the guy at the counter. I asked if he'd ever had anyone in, renting movies and crying. His answer was encouraging. It turns out that there are criers. I am now unreasonably happy on two counts: people who cry in video stores do exist; people who work in video stores are suitably observant and would probably make excellent interview subjects.

The other cool thing I've noticed, in conducting my literature review, is that it's next to impossible to actually do a literature review for this project. I've found one study relating to the impact of mood on movie rental choice. That's as close as I can find to information relating to my topic. That's both good and bad. The good is that I won't be studying the same tired old thing. The bad is that secondary sources will be hard to find. Still, it's darn exciting stuff.

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Friday, May 9, 2008

Crying in video stores

Another thing I want to study:

Lots of people watch movies when they feel sad. Where do those people get movies from? Pre-internet, unless they wanted to watch something they already owned, they'd need to go to the video store. That means sad people in video stores. Even if they aren't crying, it should be possible to see who is more upset than the average.

Questions, then: In the past, how often would an average video store get a crier? A sad non-crier? Has the frequency of sad video store customers changed? Has it gone up? Down? If down, where have the sad video watchers gone? Or are people finding different coping mechanisms?

Problems: I don't know how I could possibly dig up information on incidences of video store criers and sad non-criers in the past. I can't imagine that anyone has kept records on that sort of thing. Perhaps it's time for a literature review.

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Thursday, May 8, 2008

Craigslist personals dynamics

I keep thinking up things that I want to study. Most recently, I've been thinking about what makes people reply to personal ads on Craigslist. Do people ever post ads that get no replies at all? What are the factors in a popular ad?

There are variables: Who the target audience is in terms of gender, sexual preference, age, location, all that good stuff; how the ad is written; whether or not the title of the ad is engaging... I could go on, because I think there are loads of factors in the popularity of ads. It's a fun exercise in personal marketing, and I somehow don't think there's a substantial body of literature on it yet.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Door bed

This is something I've been meaning to make for a while: Get some old doors (maybe six or so) from the ReStore or some other similar used hardware place. Take two and attach them together, side by side, with something quite strong like a few strips of metal bolted legthwise across the join. Do the same thing with two more. Stand the two sets of double doors up on end about six feet away from each other. Take the remaining two doors, with their long edge on the ground, and attach them to the double doors so that they form a box type configuration. Strong hardware is a good idea. After that, just throw some rails and slats into the whole thing. Ta da! Bed made of old doors. It's sturdy, it's more interesting than an IKEA bed frame, and it's cheap, too. Now I just need to get around to making it.

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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Vernacular Woman

Finally finished a little site that I've been working on for a couple of months. Why did a small site take a couple months? Because I was trying to take a complicated idea that's also been done to death and make it new and simple. The result is a video with a little scene by scene didactic track down below. It's kind of like those audio picture books that little kids have.

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Monday, March 31, 2008

Food value of a t-shirt

Here's an idea I've been hoarding for a while: I want to take a t-shirt to a food testing place and get the nutritional value figured out. I want to know what vitamins it has, protein, calories, fibre, all that stuff. I like the idea of going completely overboard with labelling. So I'd really like to see a shirt that has a hang tag with nutritional info. It's purely useless information, unless you plan to eat the shirt, but still, I think it could be an entertaining gimmick, if nothing else.

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Friday, March 28, 2008

ginger to English dictionary

I find that I have a kind of obfuscated, often overly whimsical way of writing. I also make up words when I feel the need. All of this contributes to a use of language that I'm not entirely comfortable classing as English. I ran into that problem today. I was writing an email and noticed that although it sounded nice and had good use of rhetoric, it might not be a practical email. Email, being a perfect medium for quick and concise communication, might not be the place to be excessively narrative. That meant that after writing it, I had to figure out how to translate my own writing into proper English. It left me thinking that I need to a) write a ginger to English dictionary and b) make one of those awesome little translation tools for ginger to English conversion. I now know what my summer project will be: I need to start listening to what I say, sort out how my use of English differs from the norm, make a dictionary based on those results, and then figure out how those translating widgets work. Should be a good time.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A traffic shaping manifesto

Capitalism is supposed to be good because it provides consumers with choice and companies with an incentive to innovate. By traffic shaping commercial lines used by other ISPs, Bell is eliminating choice. I've tried Bell. I even used their internet for a year. At the start of that year, the delay in getting my internet running was truly impressive. During that year, my internet was spotty. I rebooted my modem more times than I can count. The support was bad and the service was expensive. Needless to say, I switched. I switched to an ISP I knew and liked. I switched to an ISP whose workings I know and who I can get help from without going through an automated system. I even had the BitTorrent discussion with my ISP. I found my new ISP to be both responsible and responsive. In other words, I switched to a small ISP, one of the ones Bell services. As a free market economy allows me to do, I made my choice.

That's why I'm feeling particularly irate. I have not contracted with Bell in order to get my internet. Traffic shaping their own customers is one thing. But I'm not their customer. I do not have a deal with Bell. Why, then, are they attempting to impose their policy on me? I didn't sign on for this. I am not a Bell DSL customer. I won't sit still and allow a party I have no contract with to decide what I may and may not do on the internet. I want to use BitTorrent in peace, for whatever legal purposes I may put it to (like downloading heavy files and perfectly legal movies like Good Copy Bad Copy). I don't want my bandwidth throttled because I'm using a protocol other than http. I do not want to be bumped because Bell feels the need to marginalize certain protocols.

This is why I say, to Bell, as a customer of an independent ISP:

You're not my ISP. Don't throttle me.

The above is in response to Bell Canada's new traffic shaping policy. Read more about it here.
I'm thinking of trying to go big with this. The groundswell is there and I'd like to see something a little more present than a facebook group. I've worked up the logo that I'm going to shove onto my website in protest, and now I just need to build a website/action to go with it.

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Carpets in kitchens

We don't carpet our kitchens. I don't see a good reason for that. Think: What makes a kitchen inherently bad for carpeting? Food preparation takes place in kitchens. It could cause a mess if bits and scraps were to fall onto the rug. Fine, but how many people are actually very messy cooks? Scraps can cause a mess on the way from counter to garbage bin. Fine, but why not just install an opening for the garbage bin in the counter and sweep everything in? Kitchens are high traffic areas. But they're no more high traffic than the rest of the house. I don't see a reason why kitchens shouldn't be carpeted. After all, dining rooms in restaurants are carpeted, and they see far more falling food scraps and foot traffic (with shoes!) than an average kitchen. Yes, restaurants with carpets tend to get vacuumed every night. But as I said before, they get much more traffic than the average home kitchen. I think that carpets in kitchens could be highly feasible. I advocate the use of the kitchen as a secondary living room. Kitchens are, after all, warm and central. They play an important role in life. More carpets, more arm chairs, less utility. Most people don't use the utility anyway.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Freestyle Crochet

I've taken up freestyle crochet. I had to kick around for a few hours at an art gallery over the weekend, and since I'm not big on small talk with strangers, I figured I'd bring some crochet stuff along. So it was me, my gigantic crochet hook, a ball of yarn and a spool of hookup wire. Seriously, hookup wire brings crochet to a whole new level. I wound up making this large, squidlike, asymmetrical necklace thing. And I'm very pleased with the result. Pictures once I document it. So I think that I'm going to go on a freestyle crochet kick for a while. It seems like a good time.

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Instead of shooting shotguns at cans...

Here's a new idea for a fun passtime: Throw romance novels at Barbie dolls. It's like bowling or those carnival games with the water guns, only way more fun. Seriously, you can get a good throw with romance novels. I've tried it. They have a nice heft, but they aren't sturdy enough to actually damage things. And it's amazing catharsis.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008


There's a very clever idea that came out of a BS session at school a few weeks ago. It was break, we were sitting at the back of the room, trying to troubleshoot a project that one of our number was having trouble with. Because many hands make light work, and because people further away from the project generally have more ideas about it, we managed to make some suggestions and come up with some solutions. We're lucky, though: at any given time, there are about fifty people we can go to and discuss issues with. That's an environment that you really only get in school. The informal workshopping sessions get fewer and farther between after graduation. That's when the idea came. Why not, we asked ourselves, offer that kind of environment for professional designers? Why not, for example, have a toll free phone number that designers can call to talk about their work related troubles?

To the group at the back of the room, it seemed like a great idea. We'd call it Designphone and it would be staffed by volunteer designers and design academics, ready and raring to help sort out creative problems.

To me, it still seems like a great idea. I determined, the day we came up with the idea, that I would find some way to implement it. And then I started doing the numbers. Phone line(s), office space, toll free number, snacks to put in the office fridge (if you expect people to do pro-bono work, you should at least feed them something): it all costs money. Where does the money come from, then? I thought that the Canada Council for the Arts might be a likely candidate. They support artist run centres and encourage new media works. But wait! I don't qualify for their grants. They don't give money to students.

So, here I am, sitting here with a pretty awesome idea and no idea how to fund it. I guess I'll have to find out who else funds this kind of thing, or just wait until I graduate and then apply for a grant. We'll see.

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Sunday, March 9, 2008

Capitalism for butterflies as retail concept

Give me a year, I'm going to do this: Capitalism for Butterflies could be made into a workable retail concept. Take a store, give it a consistent, overarching name, and then change what it does, how it looks, how the branding works every once in a while (when boredom strikes, when the inventory runs out). It would become a destination just because it would completely lack consistency. Look at the original Capitalism for Butterflies post to get a better idea of the model.

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Monday, March 3, 2008

Website overhaul

I've given my main website a much needed overhaul. It was old and decrepit. It used tables for layout. I've been ashamed of it for the past year or so. Today, I finally got motivated to give it the work it needed. It's new, it's pretty, it's worth looking at.

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Capitalism for butterflies

I have this habit of starting little micro-businesses for individual occasions and situations. I take different things that I'm good at, different trends that I see happening, and different environmental stimuli (impending small press fairs, craft festivals, that sort of thing) and build a business to meet the need. In short, I do something that interests me now, for a limited period of time, and hope to benefit others. I then move on before the concept goes stale. I think there are other examples of this in existence, but I may take it to an extreme.

I'm calling my habit Capitalism for Butterflies, because it does a lot of the same things that butterflies do. Think: Butterflies live short lives, being pretty, flitting from place to place, pollinating. That's what an ideal Capitalism for Butterflies business does.
It exists for a short period of time, based around one good idea that is often trend based. It isn't meant to have staying power. If it works well, it pollinates. It makes the people who encounter it happy, it builds personal brand equity for the people involved, and the whole thing ends before it gets old.

A recent example of Capitalism for Butterflies: no poetry press. I started no poetry press specifically for Expozine. I got it into my head that I would show at Expozine 2007. Roughly two weeks before Expozine took place, I made a website, dreamed up a few zines, did the covers for those zines, put those on the site, and then registered myself for Expozine under the no poetry press banner. By the time Expozine rolled around, I had a catalogue of around ten zines/small books and I was ready to go. People showed up at my table, some of them actually looking for me because they'd seen covers that had interested them on the no poetry press site. I sold a lot and loads of people went home happy with copies of Flow Chart Comics, The Adorable Seven Deadly Sins and Love Poems for Undeserving People. no poetry press hasn't been active since. The website still exists, I still have copies of zines that didn't sell as well, and no poetry press might just register for Expozine 2008.

The bottom line, though, is that a Capitalism for Butterflies business doesn't need to exist all the time or for long. Good Capitalism for Butterflies businesses are low commitment, low investment and extremely compelling. They don't need to last forever. It's like having loads of different product lines under the umbrella of one company. The parent company in this case is just an individual. Every Capitalism for Butterflies project I start gets the ginger coons brand a little more equity. No loss, lots of gain and never any stasis.

Capitalism for Butterflies is a profoundly fluid business model. And that's a very good way to be.

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Saturday, March 1, 2008

Projections on buildings

I'm working on a group project at the moment that involves creating a proposal for an urban practice. Our idea is to project site specific movies onto historic buildings around Montreal.

I walked past the Canadian Centre for Architecture this evening and noticed something that a) made my jaw drop, b) confirmed my high opinion of the ideas of design students. This evening, presumably for Nuit Blanche, they're projecting on the wall of the CCA. It's lovely. Windmills, oil rigs, all sorts of stuff relating to their current exhibits. Admittedly, their walls make a better blank canvas than most of the older buildings in the city, but it still makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside to know that it's being done.

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Friday, February 29, 2008

Thought Bubbles

I want to make some very small, very low power, sculptural computers. They only need to be able to access wifi networks and browse websites (I'm thinking Wikimedia Commons and Google image search). They very nearly qualify as wearable computers. They're shaped like thought bubbles and are worn sticking up from some kind of hat or other person to computer interface. The idea is that the wearer would be able to grab an image from the internet and display it on their thought bubble screen. It would give the adorable illusion of being in a comic book, and it would give others a little insight into the thoughts of the wearer. Neat.

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Friday, February 22, 2008

A novel use for spoons

I've come up with a clever use for the extra spoons I had kicking around in my materials cupboard. I was thinking the other day that I needed a place to hang clothing that wasn't to be worn immediately, but that would be impractical to put in the closet. I went into my materials cupboard to look for some kind of hanger. I noticed a small baggie of spoons. Spoons are quite nice, because they have a round bit to hang things on, as well as a longer bit that turns out to be ideal for slotting in between the louvres of closet doors.

The technique, then, for turning spoons into fantastic clothing hangers: Take spoon. Bend twice, fairly sharply (about ninety degrees), in opposite directions. It doesn't really matter where. It's all a matter of taste. Then, in my case, shove the non-spooney end between the louvres of the closet door. This should leave an L shape hanging down against the closet door, with the bowl of the spoon jutting out for clothing hanging purposes. In this incarnation, the spoon hangers can't carry much load, because the louvres are a little delicate, but I'm sure it could also be installed into a wall. In fact, wall mounted spoons would only need one ninety degree bend to work properly. In the version I've done, though, the spoon hangers are an excellent place to hang shirts. Yay! A handy weekend project for those with excess cutlery.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Dumb waiter update

I think I know how to make my super-slick dumb waiter work. The new idea is this: Picture an elevator. A normal one has one shaft in which one capsule goes up and down. That's fine as far as it goes. Mine is a little different. My elevator has two shafts, running side by side. They connect at the top and bottom. Also, instead of having one set of cables, mine still only has one set, but it goes in a loop. So, the two elevator shafts (or dumb waiter shafts, if you prefer) share one cable. There's a pulley system at the top and a pulley system at the bottom. Multiple little capsules are attached to the cable. Here's where it gets cool: the capsules are only attached at one point (think of a ski lift) so that they have their orientation controlled by gravity. That way (like a ski lift) I can have multiple capsules going around the double-shaft-elevator-loop-cable-thing (and yes, that is the technical term for it). The result: a dumb waiter that can have multiple courses loaded into at once in the kitchen, each of which can be retrieved individually upstairs. Success! Now I just need to sort out the little details. For example: how will I actually build it? And where?

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Friday, February 15, 2008

A new aspiration

For months, I've been kicking around the idea of doing a restoration job on some kind of decrepit warehouse building, if I ever manage to find one. A clever new idea has just solidified in my mind. I've realized that I'll have to put my dining room over my kitchen, whether I do that loft-wise or some other way. Why does the dining room need to be above the kitchen? I want a dumb waiter. I think that having a dumb waiter is absolutely necessary, and quite appropriate in something like an old industrial building. Now that I have that part, though, I'm trying to sort out how to reinvent the wheel, with the wheel in this case being the dumb waiter. I need to sort out how to do a dumb waiter that doesn't require anyone to be in the kitchen loading it. At this point, I'm thinking that maybe some kind of a water wheel type look with multiple boxes might be a good way to keep a few different things in at once. Although that idea presents a different set of problems. We'll see.

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Results of the trip to Parc Ex

I humbly present one of the adorable photo illustrations that resulted from my trip to Parc Extension last weekend. I'm viewing it as what we might see if mother nature were more literal minded.

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Monday, February 4, 2008

Portraits of my Heroes: redux.

I'm trying to decide who to draw next for my "Portraits of my Heroes" series. It's difficult. Really, who can I honestly call one of my heroes? Douglas Adams was the easy one to decide about. After all, I just finished reading The Salmon of Doubt for the nth time. While I was reading it, I felt at times awe, at times completely uplifted. When I read the bits that other people had written, I felt an intense amount of sadness. Nearly seven years since he died, and it still feels acute. It makes no rational sense. I never even knew Douglas Adams, just read what he wrote. I'm thinking, then, that I have a workable criterion for choosing my heroes. I need to sort out whose work lifts me up, inspires me, makes me cry, makes me vow to improve the world. I need to sort out who I can't imagine a world without. I'm afraid it might not be a very big series. But everyone in it will be vitally important.

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Saturday, February 2, 2008

Portraits of my heroes: Douglas Adams

You see before you the first piece in a new series I'm working on. I'm doing portraits of my heroes, in crayon. The first one has to be Douglas Adams. There's no question about it. I'm thinking that once I exhaust my supply of heroes, I might branch out from crayon and do some stencil versions. But for now, the glory that is Douglas Adams in crayon.

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