2011 is awesome

Momentum and the making of things

I like this time of year, it’s full of possibilities and I don’t know about you but it makes me feel bold. I feel like I can make decisions that eluded me in the meandering late months of the year prior. As if I have a responsibility to, yes you knew it was coming, turn this year up to 11. So maybe that means you give that douchey x his walking papers finally and tell him/her never to call you again. Maybe it means you’ll finally tidy up that train wreck of an external drive you’ve been meaning to catalogue or start a new project to fill an entirely new drive.

I think to classify this type of activity as “kept new year resolutions” is bunk though. “I resolve to call my mom more”, I resolve to put the dishes in the dishwasher after I use them”. None of us think that formally, okay that’s a lie someone thinks this formally Read more

Popular Science Vintage Cover

It’s out of your hands

Something you poured your guts into, all of your skill into will one day be dismantled. Maybe it’s an art director that’ll do it, or a client, maybe the technology you built it for will become outmoded, or maybe you’ll do it yourself so you can move on for whatever reason. Often the process is painful, and disheartening. Recently I read (and I wish I could remember the source if it sounds familiar please help me out) that building for the web is like building a sandcastle and waiting for the tide to come in. Wash and repeat, that’s just how it goes. And it is true. But design has always been this way, commercial work is for the masses, often for the moment, and it won’t be uncommon that it’ll be at the mercy of someone who doesn’t know their ass from their head.

So it goes.

Relationships change, business models change, technology changes and so will you. As long as you are still taking useful knowledge away from the experience you are doing it right. If you didn’t well then… you should be re-evaluating the choice to work on it to begin with. And you should probably stop doing favors for people. That’s what you did didn’t you? Yeah I thought so. It smarts and I’m sorry if you feel bad about it when it happens. I send an interweb hug to you I feel you my friend. Take heart you will make many, many great things and I look forward to seeing them. I hope the feeling is mutual.

Popular Science Vintage Cover

It's okay let it burn.

glossy 8x10 number 1

You will be a victim of style

It’s just a matter to what degree. It’s common knowledge I like to give my unsolicited opinion on any given number of topics and usually aforementioned topic is a design choice that offends me. And usually it offends me because it’s a cliche, a poorly executed technique, ill-advised type selection or instantly recognizable photoshop filter. Well okay that’s the short list of things that offend me if I’m to be truthful. Crocs, turned up polo collars, shabby chic, Ed Hardy, and sugar substitutes also offend me. Now where was I? Right style and victimizing yourself by it’s hand.

Recently a close friend sent me to http://yourlogomakesmebarf.com/ I snickered for hours. I looked at no less than than 8 pages of the blog. I was equal parts horrified and bemused. Look a lot of people even people in my life often think my job is easy-peasey, “Oh you are a designer and web person. Well that sounds FUN!” In fairness yes sometimes it is, in fact it’s a lot more fun than filing TPS reports, can’t argue that. But it’s also torture sometimes, because the job really is half psychology. And the longer a business has been in action the more bad design relationships they’ve probably been in. So I hear things all the time like, just so you know “I really hate yellow”, “at this seminar one time I heard blue makes people feel relaxed”, “I really want to use a gradient or an effect on this *insert whatever design element*”, “the last designer I worked with never communicated with me”… I could go on. So I metaphorically and sometimes in real life hold their hand, look into their eyes and say, “you can relax now you are working with me I’m going to remove this stress from your life. Leave me in charge and I promise you’ll be happy but you gotta trust me.” Okay I don’t really hold clients hands, maybe once or twice, but those folks where real basket cases. Generally in fact the hand holders were damaged goods and I had to fire them. But that’s for another day. Again I digress.

If you want to evaluate if what you have done is cliche, passe and or outright cringe inducing remember the old adage. Know who your client is and why they matter. A bomerang swoosh is probably not the right answer, also probably not the answer, sparkles, flames, drop shadows, bevels and linear gradients. The trendiest web effect, I’m looking at you glossy reflections, probably suspect. Anything published in Photoshop magazine or other “tutorial site” as “cool type effects” be very wary. All in all be wary of style, it’s often a trap. Focus on solutions, focus on usability and make sure it functions as flawlessly as possible. As a communicator by trade my motto is indeed function should precede form. Things that work they way they should are almost always by default beautiful. You aren’t going to win every battle with your art director or clients. But if you come to the table with sound logic, you’ll have a much better chance than if you say “it just looks better this way, I can’t explain it”. Next time try “The user analytics tell me the average user only has a screen 800 pixels wide and a lot of them are still using I.E. *cringe* so we really must accommodate these users if we want return visits from these folks.” And yeah use the word “folks” that’s a pro-tip makes you sound accessible and everyone thinks us designers are snobby, elitist, D-bags with overly complicated starbuck orders. Which is silly most of us drink way better coffee than that.

In any case I leave you with another find from my vintage photo treasure trove. I spent a lot of hours with the 35 mm scanner this week to illustrate my point with the fine, fine lost art of the seventies pose the groovy style is a given. I figure most of these folks were aspiring actors in L.A. But I have no names or photographer contact. Just lonely anonymous 35mm strips. They all look like pretty sweet people, but I think we can agree victims of style most of them might be. Do not do this to your work design or otherwise compatriots, you do not want Farrah hair on your design. Well unless it’s a sweet parody on a seventies exploitation flick. Then get that airbrush out, Seriously get it out.

bouffant meet seventies kitsche

glossy 8x10 number 1

bouffant meet kitsche

glossy 8x10 number 2

This is natural and not a staged photo, no really

glossy 8x10 #3

Suspicious plant to the right meet fashun

8x10 glossy #4

glossy 8x10 #5

whoa background pattern!

The A Bomb

…but meanwhile

this post is revived from my old blog but I think the message is still very pertinent. New material coming monday.

    someday I’m going to write a primer for crippled saints but meanwhile…

as the Bomb sits out there in the hands of a
diminishing species
all you want
is me sitting next to you
with popcorn and Dr. Pepper
as those dull celluloid teeth
chew away at
my remains.

I don’t worry too much about the
Bomb ? the madhouses are full
and I always remember
after one of the best pieces of ass
I ever had
I went to the bathroom and
masturbated ? hard to kill a man
like that with a

anyhow, I’ve finally shaken
R. Jeffers and Celine from my belltower
and I sit there alone
with you and
as the real and the
artificial heart
continues to falter,

I love you but
I don’t know what
to do.

-Charles Bukowski

I have read many other poets, it’s just that I’ve just been re-reading bukowski over and over for something like 6 years. I suspect it had a lot to do with LA itself. This city still breathes him out and you can feel it like a hot wind off the Santa Ana’s often. We, him and I, may have come to a crossroads. I still think his work is exceptional in that it is untethered by fear, utterly unabashedly, emotionally naked. As I get older, he makes me wince more than I used to. The more fragile you become the harder it is to read about weakness, maybe it’s fear of mental instability by suggestion. He did find great success, in fact he’s still lauded for just as many right reasons as wrong ones. On the other side of the coin his youth was bitter & malnourished, he fought circumstances and personal demons so very hard throughout his life, to do something so beautiful as be a poet, albeit one that raised the hackles of many a do-gooder and academic. The world will never know if he’d lived under the shelter of privilege and comfort if he’d have become half the writer he did. But it makes me very sad to think it would have ruined him artistically to have had that peace.

The A Bomb

Think Less, Do More

Today I had a brief chat with a friend of mine, and the summation was “you only have so much creative energy you can expel in a given number of hours.” I think for most creatives this is a frustrating reality. I have a couple of ideas however about how to maximize your returns. Okay really only have one today I’m sure I’ll think of more down the line.

1. it’s not new, this book has been out quite a while, buy it and read it and most importantly think about Stefan Sagmeister’s book “Things I have learned in my life so far “http://www.thingsihavelearnedinmylife.com/ if anything just find a copy for the beyond cool die-cut cover.

Seriously this isn’t a pitch, I make exactly zero dollars from this recommendation. Maybe like negative a quarter of my hourly rate if I include the time I took to write this post. If I had applied everything I gleaned in my first read… Well I dunno but nothing but good could have come of such an application

One of my favorite passages is “Worrying Solves Nothing”. I implore you readers, why is this so damn hard to remember? I’ve lost a lot of sleep this week from ignoring this one truism. Sometimes in my head (not out loud so as to avoid being mistaken for crazytown bound) I repeat “think less do more, think less do more, think less do more”. It works a lot of the time, and I kinda imagine this is what Yoda would tell me if he were a design instructor. (disclaimer: did he actually say that in the movie? If so I give credit where credit is due).

Please creative friends just do more I love seeing what you are doing and any creative victory you have is a victory for all of us. The more we stagnate, get tangled in fear, or dwell on that which we cannot control the less we’ll contribute to the collective. And in these times every bit is meaningful. I know you are way over hearing about “these times”. I get it, maybe you have a mortgage, children, rent to pay, groceries to buy, relationships that are working or not working. You know what the the best remedy is for all those trials and obligations? Being awesome. Yep that’s it, be awesome, do what you do best, do it a lot. Do it so much it’s as much second nature as walking is, or avoiding your landlord is. You know what I’m getting at. Oh and just so we are on the same page this is as much a pep talk for me as it might be for you.

So in summation, while we pray in the time we aren’t creating that they reactivate the WPA, thanks for the ear my friends and I’ll keep on keeping on over here.

What’s that? Okay yeah sure we can all raise fists now, I’m game.

Fist raised graffiti

copyright 2010 Luther Gerlach

The temperature is nice in the shadow of giants.

Mothra Oh noes!

Mothra Oh noes!

Although I started my life as a military brat it was a short dalliance. So, although I was born off the mainland of Japan on the island of Okinawa the only marked cultural value I gleaned from my birth right are gauzy memories of Mothra and Godzilla on television. I wasn’t even two before my parents returned with me stateside. From there on out it was a youth of small towns, first in Texas and then in Missouri. Which meant by default I grew up without museums, music performances, or theater. I didn’t realize this left a chip on my shoulder until in a college photography class I expressed my frustration with a professor who’d left the New York underground creative scene (he had done the most incredible photos of Tom Waits and William Dafoe, to name a few), to shoot color photos of fields in the plain states. Flat perfectly rendered large color photos of perfectly aligned horizons often of wheat fields or field grass. I had an inexplicable loathing for this professor. In retrospect I realize it was the truest expression of the old cliche the grass is greener. That said it did not change the passion I had acquired for photography in college. I spent full days in the darkroom, often into the night, actually pretty much until the lab tech kicked me out more often than not. I never made the connect though. Although when I applied myself my execution was quite good I could not fathom with my straight laced midwestern rearing that this was at all something I could make a career from. On top of that I was in a particularly self-righteous phase where I believed creative work must be accessible for all to be truly a success. And again I saw nothing in my own work that spoke to that principal. Most of it was rather formal and executed with as much detail as I could muster across the tonal range. It certainly didn’t seem to validate anything but a passion for the craft. So I occasionally acquire a camera, always vintage now. The first was the one and only I ever bought that was show room new. I took color classes at Otis and the spark was still there and every once in while I’d make a pretty great image. Alas my life was unfocused and I spent what effort I applied on the career that paid the bills. At the time that left spare little time to commit to actually shooting. But I loved shooting LA heck I still do I love seeing this city in C-prints, silver-gelatin prints, polaroids, ambrotypes, salt prints, heck watch ya got as they’d say back home.

Through a twist of fate here and there I became good friends with the great Luther Gerlach, who humbles me with his knowledge, skill, and work always. It’s also worth mentioning he’s an awesome storyteller don’t miss out on that if you have a chance. He now possesses the largest plate camera, as far as we know, in the world. Most of you are accustomed to seeing images on paper or you might have an old photograph of a distant relative on metal say a tintype. But there was a time when photographic images were shot on glass plates.

Eastman Kodak Dry Plate box

Eastman Kodak Dry Plate box

You could even buy pre-coated glass plates in a box. Photographers would carry a full service darkroom in a wagon up through places like Yosemite with pack mules and horses. Now Luther has traded the horses and pack mules for a large diesel truck but all of the chemistry must be mixed and applied by hand and the image must be developed on site directly after shooting, conjuring up a host of potential pitfalls. To that end every image is one of a kind and an extraordinary thing to experience in person.

A few weeks ago Luther dropped in unexpectedly on a Monday with Tracy Storer of mammothcamera.com. If you are asking yourself why these folks hang out with me, I’d like to give an answer but to be honest I’m humbled every time, and frankly you’ve got me. ;-D Tracy is a rare figure in the photographic world as well. First he shoots large format polaroid The stock was indeed discontinued a few years ago. Thankfully Tracy warehoused a large cache of the material and still works with it today. But that’s only the half of the genius, Tracy also builds large format cameras. Yep he even machines the metal parts in his workshop. As you may guess this totally blows my mind with its level of awesomeitude.

Also joining us on that joyous, unexpected Monday was my gifted neighbor Eric O’Connell and my roommate Mike Allen who is an endless source of inspirational drive and talent. Oh to be so sure of your path at such a young age. I don’t have envy I have respect for that. So as I think back on those 4 bottles of wine and hours of conversation I realize I have a lot to think about, not that I ever don’t. Maybe I’m just here to connect people or maybe I will one dust off a camera in the collection and treat it with the respect it deserves. I’ll probably do it quietly for a while until I feel my heart is in it.

To end this post I am including a piece from each of the artists from that monday below. And although I’m not quite yet worthy of the honor I’m throwing in one of my own. I’m just going to make it a bit smaller to make myself feel just.

copyright 2010 Luther Gerlach

Amelie And Alchemie Luther Gerlach

Copyright 2010 Tracey Storer

Copyright 2010 Tracey Storer

untitled copyright 2010 Eric O'Connell

untitled copyright 2010 Eric O'Connell

copyright 2010 Mike Allen

copyright 2010 Mike Allen

"We're Open" Copyright 2010 Eva Crawford

"We're Open" Copyright 2010 Eva Crawford

found film

Film, love, rock and roll and a sweet ride…

found film

Tour bus?

found film

Love of VW, rock and shaggy hair.

Of all the things I pine for, and my interests are diverse to the point of hopeless distraction, shooting on film is the one. It’s the one that haunts me. It causes me guilt when I am not shooting and that’s been more often than not in the last five years. Partly because it’s painfully expensive. To soothe my under utilized photography obsession I began to acquire vintage film and images. Compared to many collectors I have a limited number of pieces. One of my greatest acquisitions though was at the Melrose trading post. A tattered cardboard box filled with negatives, photos some of which dated back to the turn of the century, several different formats and styles. It was pell mell. And I love it, love it and love it some more it’s going to show up here often because it’s that great. There is magic in these stacks. This dynamic duo is one of my favorites. If not for the minty VW, the cache of early seventies rides in the background, and the shagadelic hair on her fella (well maybe he’s just her bass player but I kinda doubt it),  I’d be nearly convinced I knew them. They remind me so much of musician friends I have in LA here, right now, in good ole 2010. And you just know that VW went on tour even if it only made it to Berkeley and back. It’s also a safe bet it made for a helluva a story. I kinda love these two even though I don’t really know them. I mean really who wouldn’t, you can tell she has sass. I really hope the album was awesome even if they missed the big label deal. Oh yes back in the day kids such things were indeed possible.

Film, love, rock and roll and a sweet ride. These images are a dream on celluloid. But isn’t it always that way…

Found Film

Found Film

Tales of Tomorrow

” Well …so this is Mars? You know something I’m dissappointed.” (not really)

Oddly enough I am not a fan of “believable” science fiction. That applies to Star Trek, Deep Space Nine, Firefly or the like. It just doesn’t bond my ions, or excite my electrons if you will. But what does fuel my proverbial jet engine is really ridiculous, misinformed, …what shall I call it? How about “science-ease”. Science-ease filled often with talks of atomic this or that, death rays, or re-animation. I find some of the finest specimens are in campy episodes of the original “The Outer Limits”, “Star Trek” and even less frequently in the generally well written “Twillight Zone”. Ah but many are not aware of one of my most favorite specimens showcasing the finest of science-ease, “Tales of Tomorrow”. Originally the pilot aired in 1951 on ABC. It featured many of my favorites like Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney and even Leslie Neilsen. They are only a few of the luminaries in one of the 85 gems you can still watch for zero dollars on Hulu. Which make it a favorite for my second monitor when I work late at night. What could better set the mood for a late night in the office than brilliant titles like “Plague From Space” or “The Fury of the Cocoon” or the classically camp “Read To Me, Herr Doktor“.

Tales of Tomorrow

Tales of Tomorrow

The Evil Tesla Coils of Doom!

Tales of Tomorrow

Electric coil of doom AND uber-creepy type. ooooo

Like the “Twillight Zone” the open is brilliant, I’d venture to say more elegant in many ways. Simple, (surely a product of budget, excellent foley and all around mysterious and spine-tingling. You don’t hear that word enough these days “spine-tingling”, but I digress. The sequence opens to a machine with a huge pull switch, purpose unknown. A huge gloved hand reaches in for a lever on the machines face…

…then pulls the lever, the sound of electricity fills the speakers while the camera pulls back to reveal a fairly simple if brilliant matte painting of what seems to be a massive Tesla Coil! Imposing voice over rings out over the electric noise and the music crescendo, Tales of Tomorrow, in a oozing text, goopy enough to make the blob feel inadequate, zooms into the frame. For the next half hour buckle up for some of the most poorly informed tech/science jargon you may ever have the privilege to guffaw at.

“Appointment on Mars”

Astronaut 1: ” Well …so this is Mars? You know something I’m dissappointed.”

Astronaut 2: “Whaaaat?!”

Astronaut 1: “Well I mean I expected something different”

Astronaut 2: “Disappointed? All we did was come to Mars and your dissappointed”

Astronaut 3: “Yeah!”

Astronaut 1: “No I”m happy about it don’t get me wrong, It’s just that …it’s kinda strange that’s all, nothing here.”

Astronaut 2: “There are rocks.”

Astronaut 1: “Yeah but no people, no intelligent life! Why not that’s what I’d like to know.

Astronaut 2: “That’s silly, this is Mars you can’t expect to find a life like our own.”

Astronaut 3: “Yeah he’s expecting to find the green skinned monsters you know.”

Astronaut 2: “Oh sure”

Astronaut 3: “like bugs, with fire coming out of their mouths (miming monster here) Arrrrrggg!”

Is this how scientists talk? I mean it’s how fanboys talk about episodes of Star Trek that’s true…

As the dialogue progresses we get some creative talk about chlorophyll plants that are on mars and that surely means intelligent life must be near. And the other guys are all “Dude stop giving us a science lecture”. Because apparently scientists get bored by such things and just want to tool around mars on a dune buggy. Then astronaut 1 gets all melancholy and laments it’s a wasteland void of life. Sad christmas astronaut 1. Hey buck up little camper I hear there is a ton of Uranium in them there hills. Don’t worry it’s not a spoiler, the uranium is a minor diversion and seemingly just a reason to get Astronaut 1 to STFU and quit whining for a bit. Oh and this is how you dress for mars, pretty practical minus that persnickety issue of oxygen. They look a bit like space mechanics to me. Oh and you may not be able to tell from the fuzzy screen cap but that’s totally Leslie Neilsen in the foreground.

Tales of Tomorrow

What to wear for your “Appointment on Mars”.

Camp factor aside, one of the greatest things about “Tales of Tomorrow” is watching the evolution of a medium unfold in front of you. No one really knew what they were doing with television then. Up till then most folks were barely out of radio and theatre. So there is this splendid alchemy between the two. The sets are usually static, the delivery is often stilted, but the foley is usually great and the sound cues better. Oh sure you might get some accidental shadows of microphones on sets, and maybe someone misses their cue or a line, or both, oops what gives is that the second cameraman! Honestly though, questionable science dialogue, campy sets, and all around rough edges, the stories are still strong. You don’t even notice the snafus, really you don’t. Partly I suspect because it’s this beautiful time capsule. You love the fact that the cardboard robot in Herr Doktor is clearly just some tall dude lumbering about in that flimsy getup, and you are kinda mesmerized by the fact that everyone watching was probably pretty cool with this. They were groomed by a steady theatre diet or perhaps imagining the places and characters in a radio broadcast. Every detail didn’t require seamless special effects and costumes, the audience was a-okay filling in the blanks.

I bet most of them got the allusions to modern social malaise and war fears too. Over and over again social roles between men and women are played out to great effect. In one a woman is given is a serum that makes her an all-powerful, intelligent super villain with no conscience. Yes clearly a smart woman is a dangerous thing kids. Oye… In another a woman berets and nags her out of work husband, and laments that all her friends are doing things and traveling but no not her, she’s married to a failure! Message? Don’t nag your husband? If the old phrase were to be retooled for the time I suspect it’d be something in line with, “You’ve got a long way to go baby”. It’s like stepping back in time via the metaphor express. Ah but sometimes it’s the omnipresent fear of nuclear annihilation that’s always a great storyline right?! A martian enemy plague is eradicated with an A-bomb minutes before it can spread it’s toxic death. Uhmmm yeah not much subterfuge there…

It’s simple to me why I love “science-ease” or why I can watch “Tales of Tomorrow” episodes over and over. I can’t speak for everyone but it inspires me every single time I watch one to look around me. What existing content can I maybe fuse together into something altogether new. Or perhaps on a more esoteric level how can I contribute to an evolving media culture? Most importantly it reminds me not to sweat it if the chemistry isn’t perfect, because it’s almost always worth the experiment.

*Author’s Note: Scouts honor I’ll come back to “Tales of Tomorrow”. I mean I can’t put it to rest until I do a montage of 4 dollar alien costumes right?

The Pink Motel

Ahhh Vacation…

The Pink Motel

The Pink Motel

Filed under most misleading title of all time. I am aware that there is this thing called vacation of which I heard rumblings about all through the summer months. Alas I am a freelancer, these terms like leisure time, vacay, and R&R …surely they must be but unicorns dancing on skittle rainbows over a tropical island. Or some such fictionalized affair of a scene usually relegated to black velvet paintings.

But perhaps a land of such magic did once exist. As I drove out of my business meeting last week deep in the valley on San Fernando road this gem of a sign sparkled on the horizon surely a mirage caused by the good 10 degree jump in temperature in the SFV. But no there she was, resplendent, even with a matching diner next door! Cadillac Jacks Diner, yes sir don’t mind if I do! This is the kind of thing that justified silly words like agog in the english language. I was indeed agog. But the Pink Motel was oddly quiet and it was in the most peculiar of places. Surrounded by muffler shops a recycling center, train tracks due east across the street and a whole bevy of industrial warehouses it was as if a sad Liberace looked down from heaven and dropped a sequin, from his fabulous cape of the day, on a pile of dog poo.

I wandered about a bit, diner empty, a lone cleaning lady popped out of a room. No tenants out walking about. But there were several lovely vintage cars scatter shot in a few places across the parking lot. Although I didn’t mark down the model a beautiful white hard top was parked under number 7, my lucky number.

I wondered out in a daze and as I texted photos to few close friends one happened to ask for the address of the Pink Motel. I google mapped it but the map came up with nothing. No pink motel, no Cadillac Jacks diner either… I looked over my shoulder a few times for Rod Serling.

And now to buzzkill. Turns out Pink Motel is kept so minty pristine for film shoots these days. It surely did once house the holiday dreams of newlyweds, kids with water wings ready for the pool, dad’s with buzzcuts and Mom’s with a pile of Life magazines to catch up on. But now it’s just a ghost on celluloid.


Mid Century Packaging WIN

Somebody spilled Mid Century awesome sauce onto my table!

Oh. My. God. Joy explosion over here! Not only did I start Russian lessons today. YAY! I also received this bundle ‘o joy via USPS today. 😀 Yep that’s an original Diana Camera, some “Gay-Lites” for xmas and an amazing bright red 8mm film editing station. Giggity! As far as I know everything is in working order. Expect super awesome future posts! Did I say Huzzah yet? Yeah you know it Huzzah!