Thursday, June 04, 2009

Rust In Pieces

Soundtrack: "Pony" by Far

First of all, I would like to send my condolences to David Carradine's friends and family.  His death has been a great loss for the acting community and he will be missed.

And, my condolences to the families who have been affected by General Motor's demise.  Many people seem surprised about everything that has been happening.  Layoffs, dealerships being cut, and now the bankruptcy.  But I think a majority of people realize that this has been a long time coming.  It all started with invention of "planned obsolescence".

What is planned obsolescence?  It is the process of a product becoming obsolete or non-functional after a certain amount of time as designed by the manufactured.  In essence, it is designing something to break.

On paper it might look good for some companies.  Design a car, build it to last five years, then every year introduce a better, more expensive upgrade.  After 5 years those upgrades add up to profit because people have no choice but to buy the newer, shinier model.  GM has been doing it for years, Apple is doing it, video game console designers have done it.  And it works... until people get tired of it.

Here's the deal: companies like Apple are going to end up like GM if they don't take a lesson from this.  Instead of building stuff to break, build stuff that can be upgraded.  Look at the Japanese; they mastered the art of upgrades through the import tuning market.  They figured out they could sell a well-built, inexpensive car that people could sink money into by adding options and after-market parts.  And if a third-party company wanted to get in on the profits they had to pay royalties in order to be a "certified" company.  It's an idea that has taken off, everyone is doing it, even companies like GM and Apple.  But if the companies who use planned obsolescence want to continue to function, they will stop jerking around these third party companies as well as consumers and start making things to last.

People have jumped on the "progressive" idea bandwagon and they are embracing ideas like sustainability and corporate accountability full-force.  I don't see a future where people throw their money and resources away on buying the latest shiny thing every five years.  That kind of thinking is dead.  If you don't agree with that, if you do not think GM is dead, you are fooling yourself.  They may continue with the same name, they may continue to make cars, but they are not going to be the same company.  It's a new world for them, but their future is about as dark and apocalyptic as it can get. 

Rust in pieces, indeed.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The United States of Identity Crisis

Soundtrack: "Superunknown" by Soundgarden

I typically stay away from politics on this blog.  But the current state of our nation's political climate has me all riled up and I feel like it's time to say something about that.  So pull up a chair, it's story time with Uncle Toph.  

Once upon a time a nation, recognized as being the strongest nation of all of the nations at that time, elected a new leader.  This president was elected under the pretense of hope and change, the change being from the past administration's power-hungry ways.  This nation had been founded on certain principles and ideals, outlined in two documents known as the Constitution and Bill of Rights.  These documents provided a solid foundation and framework for how the nation was to operate.  But for many years the leaders and lawmakers of this nation had been abusing and even ignoring these guidelines.  The new president made a lot of promises to the people, and although none of them were related to these sacred documents, nobody cared.  He was someone new.

Things have changed, but not necessarily for the better.  The president is of course Barack Obama, and the change he has brought has not been the kind of change this nation needs.

I present to you the seventh and eight articles of the Bill of Rights, also known as Amendment V and VI respectively:

Article the seventh [Amendment V]

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Article the eighth [Amendment VI]

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation;to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

Now let's talk about why I have the Fifth and Sixth amendments posted up on this here blog.  Amendment V declares the right to due process in a trial.  Amendment VI declares the right to a speedy public trial.  Both of these amendments relate to the proposed introduction of indefinite detention without trial.

What is indefinite detention?  It would establish a legal basis for the United States to incarcerate terrorism suspects who are deemed a threat to national security but cannot be tried.  It an attempt to keep the terrorists off the street, so to speak.  It's being hailed as a matter of national security, but it brings up an interesting conundrum.  These people are assumed terrorists and the evidence against them is completely circumstantial, yet grave enough that the authorities feel that they are a threat to the American people.  But does that supercede the principles upon which our nation was founded?  If we are to say that we are indeed the greatest nation, a nation built on our constitution, then we owe it to ourselves and the world around us to adhere to the framework that has been put in place.  And that means that the people who are unable to be tried fairly have to be released.

I don't like that personally.  I'd like to see the terrorists go away, but we are talking about the law.  This proposed indefinite detention is another step towards creating a precedence of acceptance of violations of the Constitution.  I would argue that the acceptance of the Constitutions "obsolescence" has been happening gradually for many years.  We as a nation keep electing leaders who abuse the law, ignore the law, even change the law for their own purposes.  When are we as a nation going to grow a pair, step up, and stand up for the rights given to us under the Constitution?  It starts with the terrorists, and we're OK with that.  Then indefinite detention will be proposed for extreme capital cases, and then less extreme cases, until all of a sudden whoops, no more Amendment V and VI.  Is that acceptable to you?  It isn't to me.  I don't want to hear arguments about "greater good" or "sacrificing things for justice", such arguments are sad cop-outs.

Stand up, America.  Grow a fucking pair of testicles and fight for what is right.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Man Everybody Loves To Hate

Soundtrack: "Disarm" by The Smashing Pumpkins

People in the graphic design world love to hate David Carson.  Especially this guy.  Actually, as an aside, I have not even heard the name Joe Clark before.  And in his postscript he comes off even more self-righteous and egotistical than Carson.  Way to be a dick, guy.

Anyway, David Carson is someone who is reviled because he breaks rules.  When he was art director for Ray Gun magazine he would do kooky things like set articles in dingbats (his reasoning was that the article was very poorly written), run lines of type together and layer them so they became strange messes and nests of typographic oddness, and utilize abstract and experimental photography and illustration.  It was a thankless job.  The readers appreciated it, I know I did when I was just a teenager, but the graphic design community did not take kindly to his brand of design.  It was artistic, free-spirited, dynamic... God forbid!

As the world has moved towards homogenization, individuality is being replaced by standardization.  Designers are taught that we should use a grid, that we should make our design projects adhere to certain standards, and that our material is required to have accessibility in mind.  They are good rules to learn, but after designers leave school they are so indoctrinated that many of them cannot think outside the box.  Instead of serving design, they serve the process.

Carson does not have a background in graphic design.  His background is surfing and sociology.  Before he was hired as the art director for Transworld Skateboarding and later Beach Culture, he was a high school teacher in San Diego.  He came to graphic design through the bohemian beach culture of Southern California, his background is people.  So who better as an art director and visual communicator than David Carson?

The work he did in the 90's is not as relevant today as it once was, but culture is cyclical.  I'm already starting to see a revival of Paula Scher's bold typographical style, and grunge typography is starting to resurface.  I have a feeling that very soon the can of worms Carson opened will once again be opened.  I can't wait.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Most Important Movie of the 21st Century

Soundtrack: Feed the Animals by Girl Talk

This afternoon, as I do every now and then, I was browsing through the film trailers on Apple's web site.  I ran across a trailer for a documentary about the American food industry.  It is called Food, Inc and it is probably going to be the most important film you will ever see in your life.

How and why do I feel qualified to make that assertion, you ask?  Because it is about something so simple that almost everyone has taken granted, yet it is one of the most basic of human necessities.

For as long as I've lived, just a tad over 28 years, my mom and dad strove to provide our fairly average family with nutritious food.  Even now that I've been out of the house for years she still goes out of her way to make sure my brother and I eat well.  It's one of the things that I have taken to heart, and I consider myself lucky because of it.  My eating habits could be healthier, but for the most part I avoid the things that I know are not good for me.  Saturated fats, high fructose corn syrup, chemical preservatives, etc.  And many of the people I know do the same thing.

But after seeing this trailer I have a feeling when I go to see this film it will completely floor me, and anyone else who watches it.  So please, do yourself a favor and go see it.  I have a feeling it will change your life.

You can see the trailer for the documentary here.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Rollin' A D40 For My Dead Homie

Soundtrack: "D'yer Mak'er" by Led Zeppelin

Last year I blogged about the death of Gary Gygax, one of the creators of the pen-and-paper role playing game Dungeons and Dragons.  A few days ago Dave Arneson, the other co-creator of the game, joined his buddy in the big dragon lair in the sky.  They leave a long legacy of gaming excellence.  In fact, after Gary's death last year Blizzard dedicated one of their World of Warcraft content patches to him.  I'd be surprised if they didn't do the same for Dave (conveniently, they have a big content patch shipping later this month).

Rest in piece, Dave.  And say hi to Gary for me!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

In Memoriam

Soundtrack: "Black" by Pearl Jam

15 years ago today Kurt Cobain died.  Nobody is really sure exactly when Layne Staley died 7 years ago but it was probably this day as well.  Both of these men were the epitome of the tortured artist.  Both of these men were bullhorns for my generation.  Both of these men died tragically to the demons that haunted them.  Both of these men are missed.

Goodbye boys.

Consider donating to the Layne Staley Fund.  It is a non-profit that is dedicated to providing hope, education, support and treatment funds for heroin recovery in the Seattle music community.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Suck It, Coldplay

Soundtrack: "Love Is Noise" by The Verve

This is the newest music video from Britain's The Verve.  You might remember their big hit "Bittersweet Symphony" from about 12 years ago.  It was all over the place and then the band dropped off the radar and broke up.  They are back now and they aren't holding back.  Take a listen to "Love Is Noise" and you might find the same thing I did... infectious hooks, foot-tapping beats and Richard Ashcroft's smooth vocals tying the whole thing together.

The thing is... it's effortless.  When I compare this song to the most recent offering from Coldplay, who are trying to be the best rock band in the world, what The Verve do is effortless and fluid.  Coldplay should have stuck to their Indie-rock-gone-arena approach of A Rush of Blood to the Head because it's what they do best.

Gotta go.  I need to listen to this song about 5 more times.