This site is moving to…

Posted on July 02, 2012  /  0 Comments  /  Tags:    

After some experimentation and deliberation, I am converting this site over to a tumblr blog: tqvinn.com. This is partly because of the ease of use of tumblr, partly because I think the sharing features of tumblr are kind of cool, and partly because I found a tumblr theme I thought was quite impressive…but mostly because this blog has always been a kind of sub-site to my main portfolio page, and I’ve decided to shut that page down.

I’m shutting my main portfolio page down because I no longer consider myself available for freelance projects, as I am trying to route all work through my company Blank Is The New Black. My portfolio site was really set up to try to get freelance work, and now that I am putting my full effort into growing a small studio, it doesn’t make sense to promote myself as a solo designer anymore.

My new website, tqvinn.com, is kind of a hybrid of my blog and portfolio page. I’ll be posting some images of projects-in-progress, some finished work, some blog entries, some music I like, and whatever else I feel like sharing. It is a site to showcase some of my work, but in a much more casual way, and in conjunction with some of my other interests. It represents me as a person, instead of just me as a designer.

If you also use tumblr, follow me!, and I’ll likely follow you back.


826CHI People Eating & Giving 2012

Posted on May 03, 2012  /  0 Comments  /  Tags:    

Here is the latest poster I designed for 826CHI’s annual fundraising event. Click on the image to see a bigger version.


Remakes

Posted on April 21, 2012  /  0 Comments  /  Tags:    

Hollywood’s worst and most cowardly habit is the recycling movies. People liked it once 20 or 30 years ago, so they’ll probably like it again, but with Seth Rogan or Shia LaBeouf in it. Why take a chance on an unknown writer or a creative idea when you can make Ghostbusters 3 with the latest SNL castoffs?

Of course, remakes are mostly terrible. Usually only successful movies are remade, and usually they were originally successful because they were done right the first time. The most recent remake abomination is The Three Stooges by the used-to-know-how-to-make-a-funny-movie Farrelly brothers. The fact that this movie made $17M in it’s opening weekend is confusing and depressing to me, as it only gives the studios validation to continue with the remaking.

Not all remakes are bad, and there is a pretty clear distinction between what movies might be worth remaking and which ones aren’t. That distinction is story. Old movies with great stories could be worth remaking. Old movies with great performances should never be remade. Here are a couple of examples:

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory
What made it great: The story is fun, but the real charm is in Gene Wilder, the Oompa Loompas, the music, the set designs, and the performance of the different kids. You are never going to get the Oompa Loompas right in a remake unless you make them EXACTLY THE SAME as they were in the original, and what is the point of that? Every little detail that was different in Tim Burton’s remake came off as wrong, because we loved every little detail of the original. This is the exact kind of movie that should never ever ever be remade. It doesn’t help that Tim Burton seems to be making imitations of his own style at this point. There were dozens of puzzling decisions in the remake, most notably the decision to make Johnny Depp play Willy Wonka as a retarded Michael Jackson, but even if he’d gotten it right, it still would have been wrong.

The Thing (1982)
What made it great: The simple and compelling story of a parasitic extraterrestrial lifeform that infiltrates an American Antarctic research station, that consumes and assimilates humans, leading to a point in which no member of the station can be sure that any other of them is human. The 1982 movie was actually a remake of a 1951 movie, but the 1982 movie was actually remade again in 2011. There is a constant tension to not knowing who the enemy is, resulting in my favorite scene: when everyone is forced to subject to a crude blood test in front of everyone else to determine who is an alien.

The fact that they aren’t responsible for destroying the whole alien civilization like almost every other alien invasion movie (War Of The Worlds, Independence Day, Battle For LA, Signs, and about a million more) helps keep the story about characters, not the world at large. However, I think it comes down to an entertaining story, not necessarily the stars and performances of the film (though those were quite good in the 1982 John Carpenter version).

Total Recall
What made it great: Philip K. Dick and Arnold Schwarzenegger. This is one of the rare movies that falls into both of my categories: it is a great story with a very memorable (I won’t say “great”) performance by Arnold. It is based on the Philip K. Dick short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale”. The story is about a man who wishes to visit Mars but can’t afford to, so he goes to “Rekall”, a company that is able to implant memories of experiences into your head to make you feel as though you actually experienced it. However, when this procedure is beginning, it unlocks existing memories in the man’s head that reveal he is actually a secret government assassin that possesses dangerous secrets, which then puts him on the run for pretty much the whole film where a bunch of other stuff happens. The eventual fun in the story is the fact that the audience is never sure whether Arnold is actually having this experience, or whether this is the fake experience actually being implanted by Rekall. However, because the film stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, it can’t help but contain memorable lines (“get youw ass too mahs [mars]“) and because it was directed by Paul Verhoeven, it can’t help but feature a woman with 3 boobs. It is an interesting short story made into a fun and memorable film that is being remade in a summer 2011 release starring Colin Farrell.

Because the story remains intact, and because movies that take place in the future are always cooler looking in remakes, I think it shows some promise. I’m sure the future portrayed in the 2011 version will look really stupid to us in 15 years, but for now it looks intriguing. The original “Total Recall” features one of my favorite failures in “future-predicting”: big video phone booths. I can’t think of a single futuristic movie from the before the invention of mobile phones that predicted mobile phones. Almost every one of them features a big video phone that requires you to stand in a particular spot to be seen. Whoops.

The movies that should never be remade are movies closely associated with specific actors, or movies that have memorable one-liners. These are signs that the movie is closely tied with specific performances. If the movie wasn’t a book first, it should pretty much never be remade. Screenplays are too tailored to the standards of movie-making like run time, forced romantic plots, forced happy endings, and cookie-cutter plots that are likely “inspired by” some existing movie and are thus already recycled in a way.

Every Philip K. Dick, Isaac Asimov or Arthur C. Clarke story is allowed to be remade forever. Each of them mostly wrote short story science fiction that dealt with simple yet interesting conundrums often involving the human response an increasingly technological world. Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report, A Scanner Darkly, I, Robot, and 2001: A Space Odyssey are a few of the movies made from their collective stories.

It is a near miracle these days when a major studio will invest in an original idea. More-ofter-than-not, you’ll see something like District 9, made on a deceivingly low budget because a studio won’t give an unproven idea/director much money because they are afraid it will bomb. Inception was applauded for being one of the rare, original ideas (not based on a book or a comic book or another movie) to be given a large budget and to still be hugely profitable. Yet the only reason that was possible is because Christopher Nolan was coming off the Billion dollar success of The Dark Knight (which is, by the way, a remake for the most part), and had already had one successful original film in The Prestige. However, for every Inception, there are probably 10 movies like The Fountain, which had well documented budget problems and ended up being a total failure.

Remakes have a built-in audience, and seem to pretty much always make their money back, and I can’t blame studios much for wanting to run a profitable business. So I turn to us, the audience, to be more adventurous with original ideas. See John Carter. See Cabin In The Woods. See Prometheus. Stay away from 21 Jump Street, and The Three Stooges and even Total Recall. Send a message to Hollywood that we are tired of recycled entertainment. Or are we? 21 Jump Street has made $127M and The Three Stooges has made $30M as of writing this.


Zoey

Posted on March 09, 2012  /  0 Comments  /  Tags:    

Hi reader(s). So I haven’t posted here in over 2 months, but I’ve got a good reason for it. I had a baby. That’s a good enough reason, right?

Her name is Zoey Christine Quinn, and she was born a week late on February 16, 2012. I was really hoping for a 2/12/2012 birth date, not just because 2-12 20-12 would be an awesome numerical date, but because both Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin were born on February 12. Not bad company. But it was not meant to be. I won’t go through the whole birth story, but I’ll say that she didn’t make things easy on my wife.

Some general notes on life as a dad…

People (strangers) now talk to me in public. I don’t have the most welcoming look around, which leads strangers to normally steer as clear as possible from me. I don’t look like a criminal, but I have relatively thick and dark eyebrows that give off a general “leave me the fuck alone” vibe that has lead to me being a 31 year old man that has never ever had a conversation with a seat neighbor on an airplane, but comes in handy when walking by would-be-solicitors on the street. However, when I’m walking around carrying a carseat containing a newborn, old ladies go out of their way to ask me questions about her. I have to say, it’s nice for a change.

Going into labor is not how they make it seem in movies and television. Anybody that has ever had a baby in any form of fiction is rushed to the hospital just in time. We were in the hospital for 15 hours before Zoey arrived. Unless your water breaks, which is relatively uncommon, you are going to have plenty of time to make it to the hospital.

The whole “getting no sleep” thing seems to be a bit exaggerated so far, as the first three weeks haven’t been nearly as bad as I anticipated. Though I can’t necessarily speak for my wife, as I’m not the one who has to get up (and stay up) 2-3 times a night, though I help where I can. The thing nobody prepared me for is how time goes in double speed. I’ll be eating lunch and then change a diaper and then all of the sudden it’s 4pm and I’ve done nothing with my day.

The Game Show Network (GSN) really needs to eliminate any game show that doesn’t have the ability to participate at home from their program list. The guiltiest party is Deal Or No Deal. I want trivia games that allow me to guess along with the actual contestants. I couldn’t care less about whether some dude is going to take the banker’s offer or guess four more case numbers at random. Though GSN does run plenty of daytime Lingo, which has quickly become one of my favorite daytime shows.

The fact that almost no employers give any kind of paternity leave is criminal. Women deserve at least 3 months, but guys could really use 2 weeks. I am lucky that I’m self-employed, as it has allowed me to stay sane, but if I had to return to work right away it would have been nearly unmanageable for us.

People trying to figure out whether our daughter looks more like me or her mom is driving me crazy. She looks like a baby right now, which is to say she looks like neither of us. Just like there was no point in speculating whether I thought we would have a boy or a girl, there is no point in speculating who’s eyes she has or whether her hair will stay it’s current color, as both will very likely change over the next 6 months. Or not. We’ll find out. Let’s not talk about it on a daily basis.

That may be it for now. Here is one more cute picture, just because.


You win, China, you win.

Posted on January 09, 2012  /  0 Comments  /  Tags:    

Here is a video of a 30-story tall Chinese hotel being constructed in 360 hours, and it isn’t some hack job concrete block. It can withstand a 9.0 magnitude earthquake, is five times more energy efficient with all sorts of heat recovery systems and multi-pane glass windows, and has air quality monitoring in every room to keep the air 20 times purer than outside. If the spectacle of the Beijing Olympics didn’t make you feel like China is going to take our crown as the leader of the world, this time lapse video of the hotel’s construction might…


Best of 2011

Posted on December 31, 2011  /  0 Comments  /  Tags:    

Here is my obligatory ‘Best of 2011′ post. Don’t get me wrong, I love making end-of-year lists, but I’m sure you are as sick as I am of seeing every blog on the interwebz making one. Take notice that while my music list is mostly cool/hip/whatever indie bands, I’m not afraid to throw my ongoing favorite Foo Fighters up there, uncool as it may be. Anyway, here we go…

MUSIC

1. Handsome Furs — Sound Kapital
Another amazing album from a criminally under appreciated band.

2. Bon Iver — Bon Iver
Not quite what I was hoping for, as his first album is one of my favorites of all time, but quite good nonetheless.

3. AnR — Stay Kids
A pretty unknown album by a band I saw by accident. They would sound great opening for Handsome Furs.

4. Foo Fighters — Wasting Light
A return to form from Dave Grohl. Probably the best album opener of the year. Seeing their secret show at the Metro the night before they headlined Lollapalooza was one of my favorite concerts of all time, and I’d already seen them 7 or 8 times before.

5. Royal Bangs — Flux Outside
Another excellent effort from my favorite band that nobody has heard of (that, oddly enough, has appeared on David Letterman)

6. WATERS — Out In The Light
A late discover, but a great straight-up fuzzy pop-rock record.

7. Yuck — Yuck
Some people call ‘Yuck’ a Pavement rip off. I don’t really know what is wrong with that.

8. Telekinesis — 12 Desperate Straight Lines
Solid simple short pop songs from Michael Benjamin Lerner’s one-man-show.

9. Neon Indian — Era Extraña
I liked this a little less than their first album, but there are some solid tracks.

10. Feist — Metals
Continuing the theme of ‘not as good as their last record, but still good’ is Feist. I loved her last record, but I can’t imagine that is an easy one to follow up, and this is still a very good effort.

Honorable Mentions:
The Beach Boys — Smile
I couldn’t really include it since it was written decades ago and has mostly leaked out slowly since then, but it was the best album released this year.
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross — Girl With The Dragon Tattoo Soundtrack
It is hard to fit a true movie score among standard albums, but the cover of Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song featuring Karen O is fucking awesome.

MOVIES

I didn’t get to all the movies I would have liked to have seen this year, so I’m not really making a real list, but here are some movies that I saw that I liked, in the order in which I liked them (starting with my favorite):

Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
David Fincher could probably film himself taking a dump at this point and it would be my favorite movie of the year. He is just that good.

Misson Impossible: Ghost Protocol
I hate Tom Cruise so much that I would love nothing more than for his movies to be terrible and make no money (Knight and Day?), but I have to admit I loved this movie. It’s just an awesome action movie, and wasn’t trying to be anything more than that.

Young Adult
If you didn’t like Juno, you probably won’t like this. But I enjoy how real it is, and everybody can relate to knowing someone like the main character, and can take some hard-to-admit joy in seeing her so miserable.

Moneyball
Best picture? No. But for a movie taken from a book about baseball statistics, it is pretty good.

Cedar Rapids
It’s a comedy, and it’s funny. That is all.


When Tommy Was In Egypt’s Land…

Posted on November 21, 2011  /  0 Comments  /  Tags:    

Last December marked the date during which my wife and I had been married for 5 years, and we decided to celebrate this landmark by taking a trip. We quickly decided on Egypt as our destination. We scheduled the trip for February 2011, and of course, the citizens of Egypt had to choose that month to decide to have a revolution.

In the weeks leading up to our trip, the protests in Cairo kept escalating, and I kept trying to calm my wife by telling her that I was sure they would die down before it was time for us to leave. Then the opposite happened, and just a week before we were supposed to depart the US Embassy advised all Americans to evacuate the country temporarily. Luckily, our travel agency cancelled the trip before we had to, and we were given credit to reschedule for any time in the next year. Egypt is too hot to visit in the summer (like 130°F hot), and elections were scheduled for November, so we chose October as the latest date we could that we thought would see relative peace in the country. One minor detail worth mentioning is that between when the original trip was scheduled and when we actually went on the trip, my wife became pregnant with a baby girl that is expected to arrive in February. I’m sure she would prefer me mention this so that you don’t just think she looks fat in the photos below. She was somewhere between 4 and 5 months along when we left, which was actually the perfect time to go.

On October 6th, we left on a trip to Cairo, Luxor, Aswan, Sharm El Sheikh, and Amman and Petra in Jordan, and arrived back home on October 19th. If you’ve seen the news at all in the last week, it is a good thing we got the trip in. The following is a long winded summary of what I saw. I have added several pictures to break it up, some of which are relevant to the text around it, some of which are just pretty pictures.

Cairo is a major modern city, with satellites cluttering every rooftop (click the above photo, a view from our hotel room, and you might be able to see some), cell phone retailers on almost every street, internet cafes with pay-per-minute wi-fi, a subway system, and a population of almost 20 Million, but it is totally common to be share the highway with man sitting on top of a huge pile of reeds being pulled by a donkey. It is a city simultaneously living in two different centuries, and I don’t necessarily get the feeling that it is a split in population (or wealth). That man being pulled by the donkey is just as likely to whip his cell phone out as anybody, and will likely return home to watch a football (soccer) game on his satellite tv. It creates a very strange atmosphere to say the least.The city has just trace amounts of Western culture. English is everywhere, but only in a supporting role to Arabic. I saw one McDonald’s and one KFC in Cairo, which, again, is a city of almost 20 Million people. Western fast food is almost as omnipresent in China as it is in the US, and while I wasn’t expecting the same from Cairo, I was expecting more of it. China had Starbucks, Burger King, Nike Town, and an enormous store for pretty much every luxury brand you could name, they had a Bubba Gump Shrimp Company at the highest point in Hong Kong, while I didn’t see a single store for any American brand on the entire trip to Egypt.This could have something to do with the fact that almost all of the men wear Gellabiyas (a full length man-dress). There isn’t much need for the Gap when you wear the same thing every single day. This was another thing that surprised me about Egypt. I know that Muslims have dress codes, and that women are supposed to cover their heads or wear burkas. But I had assumed that this was a bit faded, and that the 21st century had caught up with them, like I heard they had in Afghanistan. Not so. A large majority of the women had head scarves on, and several of them were wearing full small-slit-for-the-eyes-to-see-out-of burkas.

The poverty in Egypt is palpable. The streets do not have homeless people begging for money, but they do have swarms of locals trying to sell you 10 cent stone pyramids pretty much anywhere you go. The city is starving for tourism right now and you can tell. There seemed to be as many locals selling glossy postcards, beaded jewelry made to look as though it was handmade locally but were likely manufactured in China, more “hand-made” carpets, jars, maps, and wood carved camels than there were actual tourists. However, even though they all must be desperate for money, they were all much more respectfully of a simple “no thanks” than any vendor I came across earlier this summer in China.There are unfinished buildings EVERYWHERE in Egypt. Mostly it comes in the form of a mostly finished building with a shell of a top floor, like Aliens swept through the annihilated the top floor of most buildings. It was also common to see buildings the had brick in place and nothing else.Though I’m told that it is something that has gotten worse since the fall of the government, garbage pickup seems to be a major problem. Though it seems more like a littering problem. There are moderate amounts of garbage pretty much everywhere, but I didn’t see any major buildups of full garbage bags anywhere. New York City the day before trash is picked up smells of garbage worse, but the consistent sprinkle of garbage everywhere you looked definitely contributed to the perception of poverty throughout the entire country, though it was the most noticeable in Cairo.

Here is a picture of Christie and I in front of one of the Great Pyramids:

Side note: I grew a beard in preparation for our trip, half-jokingly and half seriously with the hopes that it might make me appear less American. Immediately upon our arrival, I was assumed to be Egyptian by one of our guides, and was not infrequently told that I looked like a light skinned Egyptian (which are a minority, but existent).

The streets in Cairo are almost total chaos. I saw maybe 4 traffic lights total in the entire city and they had all been turned off. I was told that they don’t use lights because nobody would respect the signal anyway, so there is no use in trying. Cairo therefore has a few more roundabout intersections than most cities, yet most intersections, even relatively major ones, either have a traffic guard doing something I hesitate to call “controlling” the traffic. These intersections barely function any better than the other major intersections they are absent at, where one direction moves until the other eventually takes over by force through a kind of miniature game of chicken.The actual driving is just as chaotic as the traffic management. Lane lines are present on the road, but seem to serve merely as a suggestion. The flow of cars reminds me of a sidewalk in Manhattan when crowds are at their strongest in that cars move around traffic erratically. They will cross into the wrong direction of traffic without hesitation, and will stop to release a passenger into traffic with no warning. Pedestrians also flood the streets at all times, playing a kind of human Frogger game yet with more courage and seemingly less concern about cars hitting them. I didn’t see a single crosswalk during the entire trip. Pedestrians appear to feel they have just as much right to use the streets at any time as the cars do, despite the existence of sidewalks. Here is a picture I took in Tahrir Square in an attempt to capture what the streets felt like, but honestly, it still doesn’t really do it justice…

The most interesting aspect of the traffic issues was that along some major roads elsewhere in Egypt (I didn’t see this in Cairo), there would be large makeshift blockades, designed to make traffic do a little swerve. They were made to force traffic to slow down so that nearby roads could enter the highway without having to deal with cars going dangerously fast. The interesting part is that they were basically just big rocks put in the road, obviously put there temporarily and with the minimum effort. This is because these roads used to be patrolled by government police, but after the revolution the government doesn’t really have the bandwidth to handle things like speeding, so these blockades were built by locals, taking a problem with speeding into their own hands while the government attempts to transition. It made me wonder what I might do differently if someone told me that starting immediately Chicago had turned completely lawless. Obviously, I wouldn’t just go out and murder someone just because I could (lucky for you, fake homeless guy who always hangs out begging near my house, but who I’ve seen actually take out keys and go into a nearby apartment). And when I really think about it, I think the only thing I would do differently is speed all the time and park wherever I wanted to.

I was somewhat unaware of the effect the last 10 years of news coverage depicting Arab nations as the terrorists had on me. For the first few days, I would have several anxious moments when I would look around a see Arabic graffiti and men that looked the ones I’ve been told are terrorists since 9/11. I am not some old lady living in Georgia who doesn’t realize that it is no longer acceptable to use the “n word”, and I am perfectly aware that there is a big different between the thousands of men crowding the streets of Cairo with their Thawbs (what might be more easily described as a “man dress”) on and the small amount of Arabs who are full-fledged Al-Quaida. But I definitely had a few moments in Cairo where I sat back and thought “why did I voluntarily bring my pregnant wife to a country populated by people that might hate us?” then reclaimed my cool and went and bought a Coke. These moments vanished as soon as we left Cairo on day 3, as the rest of Egypt was populated in the same way, but the sizes of every other city were much less intimidating and had far less of a “they could kidnap both of you and nobody would ever find your bodies” vibe to them.

For any graphic designers out there, you may appreciate what the FedEx logo looks like in Arabic. The integration of the arrow isn’t quite as graceful (keep in mind that Arabic reads from right to left), but I suppose they did what they could…

Security throughout the country was something I could never quite get a handle on. There were metal detectors everywhere, but many were unmanned, and others I could walk through, set them off, and not even have anyone turn their head. I had the feeling of a system put in place by the previous regime, and since February nobody cared anymore. Every major tour site required you to go through a metal detector and run any bag you might be carrying through an x-ray, but not once did I ever get frisked or stopped for anything, even though I frequently got buzzed by the metal detector. Many of them were pretty clearly just turned off. Security at our hotel was another story. At most of the hotels we stayed at (we stayed at 5), any vehicle entering had to have the undercarriage cleared by one of those guys with a mirror on a stick and sniffed by a bomb-sniffing dog. Every hotel had those cylindrical metal barricades that disappear into the road when lowered. These barricades were installed to actually keep unwanted vehicles out, and weren’t just some ridiculous wooden gate that could be easily breached by a Mini Cooper going 20 miles per hour.

On our last night in Cairo, there was a major protest in which 24 people were killed. This occurred in Tahrir Square, less than 15 minutes from our hotel. We passed through Tahrir Square just hours before on the way back from dinner and saw locals having what I’ll call “a disagreement” with some military personnel. We asked our guide what the story was and he told us that people come to the square almost nightly to protest these days, and that it was absolutely nothing. Perhaps what we saw was just a regular Sunday night in Cairo and perhaps our guide knew that this was not good but told us it was normal so we wouldn’t freak out, but somewhere between what we saw and rise of the sun the next morning, 24 people died in this clash.

Here is a picture of Christie and I in front of a government building that was burnt during the initial protests/riots in February 2011:

I’ve now written two and a half pages without even mentioning any of the sites we came to see. The pyramids are worth the price of admission. They are as huge and as impressive as advertised. It is really the supporting sites that are more interesting, as those have the carvings that provide a window into who these people were, but there is nothing quite like just a fucking huge thing. The Temple at Karnac is both of these things, and was my favorite site in Egypt. It doesn’t contain a pyramid, but it is one of the most enormous structures I’ve ever seen, and there are hieroglyphics carved on every inch of it. Being from a country with such a relatively short history, I couldn’t help but laugh when we would enter a temple and see graffiti on one of the stone walls with someone’s name and the date 1809 next to it. All of these sites are so old that even their graffiti could be considered historical.

Every one of the temples and tombs is impressive, and almost every one of them has some interesting quirk to it, from later inscriptions by Napoleon’s army, to a road of just recently discovered Sphinxes that can’t be fully seen because they accidentally built their train station above a large section of it, yet at a certain point I did experience some burnout on seeing the same hieroglyphics and hearing the same king names at every site. Here are some of the highlights…

It is well known that I am a devoted McDonald’s fan, so I sought out a McDonald’s near Luxor Temple. I’m always interested to see if there are any local twists, and there was: the McArabia…a pita-based sandwich, and the famous Royale With Cheese. Ironically, I went to McDonald’s to get a good refuel, as I had been eating light due to my extremely picky eating habits, and of all of the meals I had on our trip, McDonald’s was the one that gave me food poisoning, causing me to vomit several bottles of water on all sorts of important landmarks the next day.

After two days in Cairo and a 5 day trip down the sites of the Nile, we left Egypt and went to Jordan for 2 days. The subtle differences of Jordan were refreshing. We stayed our first night in Amman, where it is a law for every building to be made of stone. While there were traces of ancient Roman culture throughout Egypt, it was mainly seen in the reappropriation of Egyptian landmarks, such as Egyptian temples with Roman engravings over original Egyptian carvings. In Jordan, the Roman ruins were original and very well preserved. Entire city centers had been rebuilt for our touring pleasure.

The real jewel of Jordan tourism is Petra. You may know Petra from the scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where they are entering the final temple holding the holy grail. That entrance is The Treasury in the city of Petra, which is a city entirely carved into a narrow valley by the Nabataeans. It is certainly a unique site to see, and was a great change of pace to end the trip after seeing so many Egyptian sites for the previous week.

With such uncertainty in Egypt’s future, Christie and I feel particularly lucky to have gotten the trip in while we did. It’s hard to believe that a leadership will emerge that will oppose American tourism (since it is such a huge part of the country’s financial well being), but it certainly isn’t out the question.


The Apocalypse Calendar

Posted on October 31, 2011  /  0 Comments  /  Tags:    

If you only have 60 seconds worth of time to give to this post, read this: I made a calendar that makes light of the absurdity of apocalypse predictions. It is available at TheApocalypseCalendar.com. Take a look at the pictures below, and if you like what you see, buy one for $20. Thank you.

And now, the long version…

Ever since I got a real grown-up design job, it has always been my goal to work for myself, and additionally to get to a point where I could have the time and resources to create self-driven projects. I’ve always kept a sketchbook full of ideas that I would love to pursue “if I just had the time” that never seemed to see the light of day. Then earlier this year, I fulfilled the first part of my goal when I switched from full-time employment to working for myself. At the same time, a new idea hit me: to make a calendar for 2012 based upon the Mayan prediction of the end of the world (and yes, I am aware that many believe that they never actually said the world would end and that it is just the end of their calendar cycle, after which a new cycle begins, but that is kind of the whole point of the calendar).

Nine months later, the calendar has been successfully funded through Kickstarter (click here), and is currently available at TheApocalypseCalendar.com. Here is one of my favorite images from the calendar from Steve Seeley:

Apocalypse predictions are stupid. As you may have deduced by the fact that I am writing this and you are reading this, every one of them has been wrong. They mirror the illogical nature of superstition and religion in the sense that they are based on faith, and not science or reason. If tomorrow NASA made an announcement that an enormous meteor was on a collision course with the Earth, and they knew this based on mathematics and physics, I would believe in it. And even as I say ‘believe’ it seems ridiculous in the sense that I would say I ‘believe’ in gravity. It’s science. It isn’t a matter of believing, it is a matter of fact. If someone had a record of predicting other major events that one seemingly couldn’t predict, and now that person was saying that the apocalypse was coming, the first point of this sentence would likely shake my very belief system and the second part might make me freak out. Luckily, that has never ever ever ever happened, and I’d be willing to bet my life savings that December 21, 2012 will be no different. At this point we laugh off apocalypse predictions, yet there is something about the Mayan prediction that just won’t go away, at least not until we all wake up on December 22, 2012 to see that nothing has changed. So as soon as I thought of the idea to make a calendar, I knew it had to have an absurdist angle, and that was to essentially act as though the Mayan prediction is absolute fact.

From the very beginning I wanted to involve all of my artist friends (many of them from my time at the Rhode Island School of Design, and others that I know here in Chicago), and have them each do a month, then take one month myself. I created a wish list of people I wanted to have participate, and I started mentioning the idea to some of my closer friends to see if they thought it sounded worth pursuing. All throughout the project, everyone I’ve mentioned it to reacted enthusiastically, and every person I approached about participating accepted without needing convincing. Thanks go out to Ryan Browne for helping fill in the roster with some spectacular talent from the comic world. Here is Ryan’s contribution to the calendar:

All along I wanted to use Kickstarter to fund the project. I’ve always wanted to use it for something, and I thought it was perfectly suited for this project. I could have just funded it myself and set up an online store and tried to get the word out, but I have found there is more of a community built around Kickstarter, and people seem to feel more inclined to spread the word if they are helping work toward a goal instead of just paying $20 for it like you would anything else. Additionally, I don’t have to spend $7,000 of my own money with no guarantee that I will get any of it back. So once some of the artwork started coming in, I started setting up the Kickstarter project, getting the project approval from Kickstarter, planning the different reward levels, and planning the video that has pretty much become a requirement for Kickstarter projects (you can post projects without a video, but they couldn’t be more emphatic about the need for a video when you are setting your project up).

I’ve always loved experimenting with videos, so I was really looking forward to making the video, even though it was a lot more work to create a simple 2 minute video than you might think. If there were 48 hours in a day, or I could live forever, I would love to be a film director, but my hand-eye coordination always led me to believe that drawing was my true calling. I browsed around Kickstarter to see whether I could identify some good videos and some bad videos, so that I could figure out what not to do. The most common failure came in the form of the project creator in front of a camera on a tripod, speaking monotonously about their project, and the boredom of the creator becomes infectious for the viewer. So I decided to enlist one of the most naturally charismatic person I know, Patrick Shaffner, who is known as the face of 826Chicago and The Boring Store, to be my pitch man. We filmed the video in an afternoon, and I supplemented it with a few snippets I shot of the calendar mockup. The result is below.

Once I had the Kickstarter page launched, I had to face the reality that while I spent so much time getting everyone else to adhere to deadlines and putting the website up and launching the Kickstarter page, I had barely started my own artwork. This wasn’t a case of procrastination, my problem that I had an extremely hard time deciding on an idea for my image. I had at least 8 different ideas for my image and couldn’t decide on one to pursue, but I also couldn’t decide on a style in which to execute the image. I was very aware that I would be in the company of several super talented practicing illustrators, while I had only spent a handful of hours drawing in the last 7 years. So I was strongly considering going with a more graphic style. Something that would play to my current strengths. However, when I originally had the idea for the calendar, part of my excitement was that it would be a good excuse to whip out the old rapidographs and spend some time drawing.

I went through mental cartwheels over and over on these issues until I didn’t have time to think about it any longer. All along I kept trying to figure out a fun way to depict a man that had done everything right leading up to the apocalypse, and how he built the ultimate bunker that only lead to ultimate boredom, surrounded by piles of empty/eaten canned food, using a radio to contact nobody, looking through a periscope at a field of nothingness. While I really liked the idea, I couldn’t think of how I could make it visually interesting, and eventually abandoned it. I finally had my lightbulb-above-the-head creative moment: creating a collage of postcards from a road trip far into the future, way after the apocalypse. I thought of a postcard showing a city skyline just barely peeking out above an enormous flood; a postcard from a cheesy roadside attraction like car stonehenge, but with something gruesome, which became a card from the world’s tallest tower of human skulls; a card from something we see as an ordinary tourist attraction that people from the future would view as something extraordinary, like the pyramids or any other wonder of the ancient world, which eventually became a card from Mt Rushmore with an alien head added; a map postcard that shows icons of major attractions, yet this would show California after a huge chunk had separated from the mainland along the San Andreas fault line…among others. There were at least 5 or 6 ideas that I couldn’t fit in, but I was happy to at least create an image with lots of my ideas. The final result is this (click on the image for a larger view):

I don’t have much business experience, so just getting the right accounts set up to work with Kickstarter was pretty foreign to me, and another foreign challenge was marketing the Kickstarter campaign. I depended heavily on Facebook and Twitter to get the word out. I also encouraged all of the participating artists to do the same. I contacted some of the sites I go to regularly to see if they would post about it, and they did in a couple occasions. All in all, most of the success came with the artists marketing to their own fans. Chandler O’Leary’s fans proved to be very dedicated, but the biggest jump, as I expected, came when Jay Ryan posted his poster to his Facebook fans. Jay was kind enough to let me sell his print’s exclusively with the calendar until the Kickstarter campaign was complete, and his fans never fail to impress with their dedication to his work.

The experience isn’t yet complete, as the project is just now transitioning from “fundraising” to straight up selling. Kevin Greene has been kind enough to help me build the website for the calendar as well as set up the entire online store. The calendar will be on press up in Canada in mid-November, a press-check road trip that I look forward to, and should be shipping in early December. I still have a lot to straighten out in regards to shipping costs and taxes and all of that, but as the Kickstarter campaign settles in just under the $10,000 mark, I couldn’t be happier with the entire experience. It’s been a ton of work, but every moment of it has been great.

To see all of the art, find out more about the artists, and buy the calendar as well as art prints of each individual image, go to theapocalypsecalendar.com.


A Day Made of Glass

Posted on October 30, 2011  /  0 Comments  /  Tags:    

UPDATED (see below)

I’ve always been a big fan of visions of the future. Whether they are anywhere near accurate or not, it is always fun to see what advances people anticipate and what is way off. Watch any futuristic movie from before the invention of cell phones and you’ll see video phones, but always connected to land lines (2001, Total Recall, and Blade Runner come to mind). Apparently nobody could anticipate the concept of a phone you could bring anywhere. As a graphic designer, I always find it fun to see product placement in futuristic movies, and whether or not the logos are updated to futuristic brand identities (like USA Today in Back to the Future II) or not (like in Total Recall or Minority Report).

The latest video I’ve seen is a concept video made by Corning, the self proclaimed “world leader in specialty glass and ceramics”. Coincidentally, in this video, everything in the future is made out of glass. So Behold! You’re future made of glass! At least according to Corning.

I’m looking forward to the future shown in this video. Sleek design…invisible electronics…mirrors that you can send IMs on (but what gives…no video chat as you are exiting the shower?). It’s great to know that apparently the entire world works on one single operating system. Apparently Apple and Microsoft and Google have joined together to make some sort of universal system, where everyone has the same translucent phone that can communicate with every instance of computing around it. Kind of a bummer we haven’t found a good typeface to replace Helvetica Neue Light (I thought Gotham had a chance) though.

It’s too bad that we won’t have figured out cars that can drive themselves yet. I thought it seemed like we were pretty much capable of that right now, but maybe we just rebelled against it, like people who drive stick shift even though automatic is easier. There must be some sort of digital public art wall that we’re not seeing, where people can create graffiti with hand gestures, because unless civilization has totally changed in this world-of-the-not-so-distant-future (at least if the fashion in the video is any indicator of how far into the future this takes place [any further than 20 years from now and we'll all be wearing silver jumpsuits]), every bus stop is going to be constantly tagged (or maybe just smashed).

It’s also great to see everyone is pretty much up-to-speed with technology, so even Grandma can have a morning video chat with those great futuristic invisible cameras that cover every inch of every surface. Last time I check, people had a total freakout when the government turned off the analog signal for television broadcasts and millions of people who hadn’t bought a new TV in the last 20 years complained about having to get some box (that was provided for free). Since everyone’s got these great translucent phones, we can all video chat all of the time.

Kudos to Corning on figuring out how to eliminate glare as well. When I look at my iPhone in the bright sun, it can be quite difficult to see the screen. With all of these glass screens everywhere, they must have pretty much solved that problem if we are going to use translucent glass screens for highway signs.

Let’s just hope that in this future they’ve figured out how to prevent hail, tornadoes, hurricanes, and earthquakes, because otherwise there is going to be a shitload of broken glass all over the streets when disaster strikes.

/ / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /

Update:

Two more ‘Vision of the Future’ videos have been released that are strikingly similar to the Corning video. Microsoft’s is a little better. And hey, it even uses Gotham for everything (which I even addressed in my original post). While the whole multi gesture thing and tables that display information from your phone are almost expected at this point, it is a pretty decent video:

However, a video apparently made by Blackberry has allegedly “leaked” (although I’m guessing the leak somehow involved a marketing department posting it to Facebook under a civilian account. The thing that is terribly, and thus hilarious, about the Blackberry video is how the whole thing is about limiting access and the fact that you can have your own apps on a corporate phone. My own apps on a business phone…the future can’t get here soon enough! My favorite part of the video is around the 1:45 mark, where the woman is trying to load an app and is given an error that the application hasn’t been approved by Central IT, so she writes a quick message on the futuristic cafeteria table requesting permission to load the application. I think they are thinking that this seems like an amazing ability, and perhaps it gives corporate IT departments a futuristic boner, but it seems insane to me to show something like that in a “wonders of the future” video. It’s as though they are proudly saying “Hey consumer! Look how much control IT has over your mobile device in the future! Awesome, right?”. It’s really a perfect statement of how clueless and uninnovative the entire company is. See for yourself:


Occupy blog.thomasjquinn.com

Posted on October 27, 2011  /  0 Comments  /  Tags:    

I’ve pretty much ignored it until now, but I have to write a bit about the Occupy Wall Street (and the various branches across the country) movement.

When I was first hearing about the movement, and it was still just Occupy Wall Street, I kind of rolled my eyes a bit at it. It isn’t that I don’t approve of the general message. My problem is that a general message is all it is/was. Did everyone think that if they yell loud enough that the richest 1% of the country would just be like “yeah, you know, you’re right, here is our money”. It’s possible, but seems highly unlikely.

Effective protests come with concrete demands. So what exactly does the Occupy movement want? What laws does it want passed/adjusted? I’m all for a good old fashioned peaceful protest, but without having a measurable goal, I can’t quite fully get behind the Occupy movement.

However…

I’ve been seeing a lot of snarky comments around the interwebz about the protestors. Things like “I wonder how many of the Occupy protestors are using their fancy smartphones to tweet about the protest” or “I just saw a protestor come into a Caribou Coffee with a professionally printed Occupy [Whatever] shirt to order a bunch of coffee”…as though just because you are a part of the movement it means you have to live like its the 19th century. This isn’t a Luddite movement or an Amish protest. This isn’t an anti-corporation movement. It is a political movement, and it seems to me mostly a response to tax law (at least that is my take on it). It is about the rich controlling political polices to make themselves richer at the expense of the poor. That has nothing to do with Starbucks or McDonalds or Blackberry or Walmart or whatever. It doesn’t mean they can’t have nice things. They just want to feel like the financial system in America is fair, and maybe have a decent cup of coffee while they do it.

The recent violence and arrests related to the protest is pretty mind-boggling. I don’t feel much sympathy for those arrested, as it seems like that is pretty much what they want. I just can’t believe that any police force gives a shit. Here in Chicago, the movement is pretty contained to Grant Park, and during weekend nights when pretty much nobody is around. The only people that go to Grant Park are tourists, and it has pretty much no interaction with the day-to-day mechanics of Chicago. Yet police forces have been arrested hundreds of protestors for ‘illegal camping’. Why? Just leave them there? I think having the police intervene only legitimizes the movement. Otherwise they are nothing but a bunch of hipsters hanging out in a park. Now they are martyrs of some sort. Now the news actually cares.

It will be interesting to see where the movement goes from here. Will it continue now that protestors are facing real consequences? Or will it peter out once everyone runs out of PTO days at work?