Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Treehouse, alone with his thoughts

I think way too much. Dwelling on problems and issues can be helpful at times, but I overdo it. Most nights involve lying in bed for about an hour, replaying and analyzing the day's events while predicting tomorrow's. I blame this on design. During my first year at UC, I was watching tv with a friend, then a junior graphic designer. A Ford commerical came up, and I started in on my distaste for the Ford Motor Company. My friend jumped in and said, "At least they're doing something different." He went on to talk about how he can't help but look for design in everything around him - film, tv, magazines and just life in general.

Because of that one damn conversation, I can't help but do the same. I see or do something and immediately start to break down the process of how it was put together, looking for where it went right or wrong. Arbitrarily judging the world around me seems a little conceited, and it is. When I justify my opinions with what I consider fact (as we do with our designs), it's not easy to express them as opinions. People often mistake my conviction for hidebound arrogance. This experience has led to some interesting thoughts, discoveries and arguments that I am glad to have had, but at times I would rather just experience.

I have noticed this problem making inroads in my design as well. During ideation, concepts need to be thrown down on paper without much forethought. They will be analyzed later. My problems come when I try to solve the problem on the first shot. The funny thing is, most of my personal problems work this was, too. I find myself thinking rather than doing. It's funny how one person's design thinking became my method for living, which became my method for design, which I now see has been my method for living all along.

There I go again, thinking way too much. Being alone with my thoughts is dangerous.


On the lighter side of things, here's a quick intro since my original is hidden somewhere the annals of this blog:

Above all else, I consider myself a skier. It's my hobby and my passion; I don't know what I would do without it. As far as design goes, I've had a great experience so far at UC with our studio projects and co-ops at Fisher-Price and Dick's Sporting Goods. This year I am trying to get a better grasp on the type of designer that I am and want to be. I believe I want to do sports design, as I love how intimately style and function are merged, and, in the past, I have found it difficult to design things I'm not passionate about. I feel like my largest defficiencies in design lie in the grey areas between conception and realization, and I need to use this year to find a process that best suits me and the way I think.

In the interest of creating SMART goals: By the end of the quarter, I will learn and utilize at least one new method for design visualization in Photoshop, Illustrator, Rhino and by hand.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Design Communications this quarter

For out Des Comm class this quarter, we are blogging about our experiences. So, to the zero people that read this, tomorrow will be a sort of reintroduction.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Simpsons QOD

- I'll even do it pro boner.
- You mean pro bono.
- I know what I said.

Been gone a while

Made the move back to Cincy for another quarter of school at UC. Really glad to be back in town with all my friends. Our design project this quarter is being sponsored by HP. This should be a great opportunity to get another high profile project under my belt. Hopedully I'll be able to keep writing during the quarter, but we'll see.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Simpsons Quote of the Day

-Did you check your pocket?
- (turns to Marge) IT WAS - it was in my pocket.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Why The Simpsons is better than Family Guy

Let me start off by saying that I love Family Guy. I watch it fairly regularly after work, and I am yet to see an episode that I didn't find funny. That being said, The Simpsons is the superior show. I think about shit like this pretty often (sad) and have come to the conclusion that the biggest reason, though there are many, for The Simpsons' superiority is its varying levels of allusion.

Allusions in Family Guy are nearly all overt and the main part of the joke. Never seen Star Wars? I can bet you won't get a joke every few episodes. Why is it funny that the mobster says "on this, the day of my daughter's wedding" 8,000 times? No clue unless you've seen The Godfather. Not only will you not get it, no part of the joke will be humorous as their is seldom more to it. Too often the show relies on its viewers to fill in the gaps, running the risk of alienating those not well-versed in the pop culture of the last thirty years. It's solution is to inundate the viewer with so many quickly-paced jokes that they forget the one last one if they didn't get it. The strategy has been extremely successful, Family Guy's soaring ratings are solid evidence, but this type of humor only works on one level. You get or you don't, and you move on.

The Simpson's, on the other hand, uses varying levels of allusion. Entire episodes have themes based on novels and films while background objects and signs give chuckles to the attentive viewer. References are used as both the main punchline of a joke and just another element. Don't get why it's funny that at Maggie's daycare, "The Ayn Rand School for Tots," the babies are taught to rely on themselves? It's okay. In fact, I didn't get it until a few years ago. The antics that ensue are still funny. The allusion is only a piece of the humor. This methods allows The Simpsons to be enjoyed by a much wider audience than Family Guy. Ignorant viewers (ignorant as in unimformed) still enjoy the slapstick, while older, more educated fans have fun with the jokes' deeper comedy. This also makes the show infinitely rewatchable, as there are always more levels to enjoy.

Most of Family Guy's allusions are quickly paced and mainstream enough to be successful, but when they aren't the fail completely. The Simpsons takes a deeper approach, making its humor accessible on all levels. Family Guy may have a few more laughs per minute, but they are not nerely as durable and intelligent as those of The Simpsons.

Movie Review: Fargo - I Mean - Burn After Reading

The Coen Brothers are two of the most memorable filmmakers of out time, blurring the lines between comedy, tradgedy, intelligence and stupdity. Their latest effort, Fargo, is a dark, satyrical look at people with a misplaced sense of superiority. Muderous, and darkly hilarious, mayhem insues when their stories intertwine. The audience chuckles when they should wince, and...wait, did I say Fargo? Oh, sorry. I meant Burn After Reading. The films are so much alike that I came out of the theater believing I had seen a remade, slightly less impressive version of the 1996 comedic thriller.

After more thought, however, I realized that the films' dissimilarities are the real theme. Perhaps the Coens intentionally wove the two films so closely together in order to display how their own views have changed in the last decade. While the overall tone may be the same, Burn After Reading carries a much different, and perhaps more poignant, message.

The film follows Osborne Cox, played perfectly by John Malcovich, a recently demoted CIA agent whose false sense of superiority makes him quit rather than swallow the insult of demotion, all time oblivious to the fact that his wife, Tilda Swinton, is cheating on him with a womanizing George Clooney. In his retirement Cox decides to write his memoirs, which he is infinitely careful to pronounce "mem-wahs." They accidentally fall into the hands of Brad Pitt and Frances McDormand, two bumbling gym managers. When their semi-honest attempt to return Cox's memoirs are misinterperted as blackmail, chaos insues, and everything is further complicated by Clooney's romantic involvement with McDormand.

We have come to expect a certain dark brand of comedy from the Coens, and Burn After Reading doesn't disappoint. The characters' complete lack of understanding of what is going on, and their inability to deal with it sensibly, is played out with dry hilarity. Just as we have come to expect laughs, we also expect chills. With the possible exception of Pitt, due to his complete ignorance and stupidity, we feel no remorse as the characters' lives end in bloody, tragic fashion. Each is deeply faulted, a collection of bad people doing worse things.

How all of this is treated, however, is where the film differs from the Fargo model. Everything is colder, less human. Bodies, and this time minds, are tossed about in the film's climax, where the film reveals its intentions.
The audience is left somewhat dumbfounded, and, initially, I believed that this was just sloppy filmmaking. The moral, if it can be called that, of Fargo is evident - people, both good and bad, are capable of terrible things, but they are still people. In the final minutes of Fargo we see William H. Macy taken by the police, screaming and crying. While we by no means feel sorry for his character, at least we are shown that he is still human, still subject to emotion. Burn After Reading ends, abrubtly, on a note of complete indifference. And that's its point.

I may be reading too much into this film (no pun intended), but it seems as if the Coen Brother's have taken their formula from Fargo and updated it for a new decade. Maybe they've been left numb by the events of last few years. This case could certainly be made with No Country for Old Men, and I believe it also applies here. If Fargo is post-modern art, then Burn After Reading is post-post-modern. It's not as entertaining, but just as telling.

4 of 5 stars

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

My First Products are on the Market

In my first co-op at Fisher-Price, I worked on the Imaginext line of toys. They've finally come out and are in stores now. These motorcycles are almost completely my work (the front end changed after I left), and I did a lot of smaller things on the whole line. Check them out at the Imaginext website. Afterwards, visit either of my portfolios to see the work that went into them.

Monday, September 8, 2008

I Don't Know How to Fix Skiing

Skiing is a sport for rich kids. It is an industry fueled by seven-figure families who take one weekend a year to provide the rest of us with another example that they are superior. At least, that's the view of the majority of the non-skiing world. While these people are a part of the ski community, they are not what drives it. At the core of the skiing world is a group of people who love their sport for its most basic qualities. Their desire for athleticism, serenity and a connection with nature creates an emotional tie between sport and athlete not commonly seen in other "recreational" activities. Skiers do not care about class; they care about their sport. With the recent rise of newschool skiing, a young crop of dedicated skiers see an increased need to reverse the image of a sport largely seen as the province of the privileged.

In the case of a paradigm shift, it is useful to find a successful model to use as a basis. Skiing has overwhelmingly turned to snowboarding as its model. Over 25 years after its invention snowboarding is still viewed as a counter-culture alternative to the posh world of skiing. Though they exists in the same market as skiers, snowboarders are perceived as people out ot have a good time, nothing more. This is the image the skiing community wants to display, and it has consequently emulated snowboarding. The men and women behind joint skiing and snowboarding contests, the encouragement of off-piste skiing and new clothing styles have worked to blend the line between skiers and boarders in an attempt to latch on to the boarder image.

Snowboarding's rise, however, cannot be effectively used to move the image of skiing to the place it wishes to be. Snowboarding began as an alternative to skiing, which was, at the time, beginning to become synonymous with wealthy lifestyles. It's popularity rose up from the lower classes rather than down from the upper. This method of garnering popular support is much simpler. America, since its beginnings, has represented the everyman. Though the privileged and the celebrity may not live like the factory worker, it has always been important that they are not seen as snobbishly superior. To achieve this, these classes have latched on to the activities and customs of the lower classes. This especially evident in the popularity of modern punk and country music. It is cool for a celebrity earning millions to throw on a cowboy hat and talk their love of the south or die their hair black and rage against the machine. These are cultures that have risen to popularity from the lower class.

Skiing is attempting the opposite. It is the culture, not the counter-culture, and it wishes to move down the ladder. It has been suggested that the rising price of day of skiing is to blame and that simply lowering lift ticket and lodging prices will improve skiing's image. But resorts cannot be blamed for raising prices. They are run by businessmen out to make a profit. If people will pay more, why not charge more? Lowering prices is only part of the solution, as the entire culture surrounding skiing has evolved to encourage its new image. Manufactured "ski towns" are lined with Louis Vatton stores and $100-a-plate restaurants, and intermediate-level ski systems can cost over $1000. This is not what makes skiing great, but it is what has become associated with the sport.

So, what is the solution? How can the skiing community convince the world that they are not brigades of trust fund babies? In my search for an example of how this can be done I have found nothing. Is skiing, then, doomed to be misunderstood? Maybe. Maybe not. Newschool skiing has made inroads with the country's youth, and the future looks brighter than it did ten years ago. If I can ever find, or for that matter create, a model for skiing to follow I will gladly share it. In the meantime, I will love skiing as it should be loved...and do everything I can to let people know what they're missing.
Well, the plan was to write an essay about my plan to remove the stereotype that associates skiing with the upper class. I looked for models to replicate but found none. Instead, tonight I'll write about the difficulties skiing faces in accomplishing such a task.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Hopefully I'll get an essay out this weekend. In the mean time:

- I want to be like the man who singlehandedly built the rocket and flew to the moon. What was his name, Apollo Creed?