Sunday, November 29, 2009

Past one-hundred thousand miles

This is a present from a small, distant world, a token of our sounds, our science, our images, our music, our thoughts and our feelings. We are attempting to survive our time so we may live into yours.
-Jimmy Carter

Ever since I was little I've been fascinated by outer space. This went beyond squealing "Astronaut!" whenever someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I borrowed books from the library and studied each planet and its moons, I drew pictures of them, of astronauts; hell, I have an old drawing that made a huge nerdy joke about how to make a star with an E-Z Bake Oven that involved the sentence, "Set the timer to 50 million years!"

Needless to say (or needful, if you're a new reader or just don't know me that well), that obsession hasn't faded. Though the feverish research has slowed, my fascination with space has not decreased from that which I held as a wee lass. On the rare chance I get to look up at a clear, star-filled night sky, I still swell with emotions ranging from hope, love, sadness, yearning, and wanderlust. I still let my eyes linger just a few moments longer when I pass anything space-related, and you can bet that all the cheesiest romantic depictions of space and space travel still sends my heart soaring.

Not a lot of people I know share this emotion with me, at least not with the level of intensity I feel. I did meet a girl in my painting class last week who seemed to, so I'll talk to her more and gush about space :D

But today I StumbledUpon this random image and was, of course, fascinated. If you look at the bottom, you'll see a scale of the solar system and beyond. At the very end of that scale, just a little over 10 billion miles (or ~110 AU) from Earth, is the Voyager 1, a spacecraft launched in 1977 first intended to do flyby missions of Jupiter and Saturn. It survived much longer than that and penetrated the termination shock, successfully entering the heliosheath—in layman's terms, this is where the power of the Sun and its solar winds start to lose influence. It's a grey area between the sphere of the Sun's influence and the medium of cold, empty interstellar space. In this area, conditions are extremely turbulent, making it a huge success that the Voyager 1 was able to survive. As of right now, it is the farthest from Earth any man-made object has ever been. And guess what? We're still in contact with it. This thing was launched in 1977, it's 2009 now and we can still gather data from it.


Through the years its mission has changed—first it was just a flyby to Jupiter and Saturn, then it visited the rest of the gas giants Uranus and Neptune, and now its mission is to gather data on the conditions past our solar system.

But here's the part I really wanted to hilight (not that any of the above information is supposed to be just useless introduction! I hope you found it very interesting!!): Aboard the Voyager 1 is something called the Voyager Golden Record. It is a gold-plated copper record filled with the sounds of earth, including sound clips of volcanoes, rain, surf, various animals, heartbeats, laughters, greetings in various human languages, songs from various genres of music from all over the world, and many more. On the cover are pictographic instructions of how the record is to be played, as well as the location of our Sun.

What the heck is this thing doing on the Voyager 1?

Well... isn't it obvious? It's for any intelligent life-form that comes across it.
If you're not native to Earth, or are but just really far in the future, then this recorded is for you. At the time of the Record's conception and realization, all astronomers and parties on the committee were aware that the odds of any intelligent lifeform actually finding it and getting to play it are highly unlikely. By the time any life form finds it, it will probably have been beaten up by random space debris and radiation, too. Knowing this, the idea of ever having made it is ludicrous at best.

But the Record's intention is not to make contact. It serves as a symbol of our culture and how far we've gotten up to that point, a little bit of evidence of us to exist long after our race and our planet has died.

It's like a kid building a sand castle close to the shore, knowing it will only wash away but continuing to build anyway because that's where the sand is richest for castle-building. Space is where the human capacity for imagination, fantasy, and hope is richest. Why do you think the search for planets outside the solar system pinpoints its search to "Earthlike planets?" Why do we want to know if it can support life? Aside from future colonization, deep down, we're all just hoping there's someone else out there, that we aren't alone. So like that child building the castle, we're going to continue searching for life forms—dreaming, praying, and hoping that we aren't really so alone in this vast Universe; hoping that one day our castles will stand and our legacy will be known.

When even the most childish fantasy can exist within the thoughts of today's greatest scientific minds, my hope in humanity is restored and my lifelong obsessions justified.

Learn more about the Voyager campaign.
Learn more about the Voyager Golden Record.
See that amazing picture again.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Sanctity of Marriage

From the passing of Prop 8 in California to the strikingly similar ordeal in Maine, voters everywhere are helping to pass the law that denies same-sex couples the right to a marriage union, and all the legal perks that come along with it.

Excuses everywhere are the same:

They still get civil unions.

So 'separate but equal.' Where have I heard that before?
It will corrupt the minds of children when we have to teach them that men can marry men and women to women.
Even if you tell them they're doing it out of love?

And by far the most ludicrous of them all,
"We must protect the sanctity of marriage."

Let's define "sanctity:"
-noun, plural -ties
  1. holiness, saintliness or godliness.
  2. sacred or hallowed in character: the violable sanctity of the temple.
  3. a sacred thing.
From this we can agree that that means we must protect the inherently holy qualities of marriage by not allowing couples of the same sex to wed. For in the Christian Bible and other religious texts, marriage is reserved as a union between a man and woman alone. It says nothing about homosexuals and marriage.

But marriage is also about love, don't you agree?
If we roll with Christianity, let's see what the Bible has to say about love:

"Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it."
—Song of Solomon 8:7

"Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast. It is not proud. It is not rude. It is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrong doing. It does not delight in evil, but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres."
—1 Corinthians 13

"He that loveth not, knoweth not God; for God is love."
—John 4:8

"Love never fails....And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."
1 Corinthians 13:13
Love sounds pretty sacred, doesn't it?

Well, my interpretation is that the "sanctity of marriage" lies in its traits of pure love and committment. It is a promise to stay by your partner for the rest of your life, no matter what happens, a promise to keep loving them as you did the day you married him or her. This is a romantic view of marriage, and one that many people in America take when it comes to that.

If that's what the sanctity of marriage is, then I've got news for you:
the sanctity of marriage is already gone,
and it didn't have the help of same-sex couples to blame.

Look around you: people aren't always getting hitched out of love. They do it out of obligation, like a shotgun wedding; they do it out of foolishness like a forgotten night in Las Vegas; they do it to get into countries and jobs, for money and for everything else but love. Divorce exists, and that destroys marriages. Shouldn't we make that illegal, too?

To say that same-sex marriage alone would defile the "sanctity of marriage" is to turn a blind eye to all the instances heterosexual couples used marriage to their advantage and not for their love. It's turning a blind eye to the increasing rate of divorce in America. With half of the married population dissatisfied enough with their marriage to actually end it, should we really consider ourselves such an authority on love and marriage?

The people who fight for same-sex marriage and equal rights do it out of love. They recognize the importance of marriage, and want to take their relationships to the next level. Who are we, who have already slandered marriage, to stop them?

Make it legal.
If there are religious concerns, then let each church and temple reserve its right to refuse hosting such a union. Let the couples find a place where they're accepted, and let the churches who don't alone. Just make it legal already. What harm could it do to marriage that hasn't already been done?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Thin is In

Ever since Pepsi's (terrible) logo change, I've been noticing logo and brand changes everywhere and the one trend that I notice is the popularity of thin, grotesk fonts.

Pepsi went from this:

To this:

The circle and swish does not feel right any more, and the new logotype seems so out of place alongside it. I don't even feel excited by it at all. What was wrong with the old logo? It was exciting, visually spelled "SODA POP," and allowed the logotype to sit in with the logo, which I personally thought was pretty cool.

A lot of critics have said that Pepsi basically sold out by making their logo similar to Obama's logo, and yeah, it sure seems like it. Whatever went down there, I don't really like it.

Here's another example of a logotype liposuction:

If you were a high school student at any time within the past 5 or so years, you know full well what SparkNotes is.

This is SparkNotes' logotype today. I guess I don't have too much to say about either one, aside from my idea that the new one is buying into the new "thin grotesk type" trend.

Nickelodeon also went through a few logo facelifts.

This is the Nick logo I know and love from back in the day! I liked the thick typeface within the splat. The splat was huge because it related to an event that Nickelodeon always held that involved sliming people. Sure, the slime was green and not orange, but this logo served well.

Somewhere down the line it turned into this, and I liked it too: the splat was less cartoony but it still got the point across, and I liked how the ends of "Nickelodeon" bled off the graphic into the negative space. It was subtle, but updated the logo from its old days.

Here's the newest logo.
All right, it's not thin, but the typeface is definitely reaching for the more modern, streamlined look, and it deviates so far from its original that I don't really like it. The iconic splat has been reduced to a mere clean droplet above the "i." Slime is not clean.

I know I'm only a student, but I recognize that a good logotype doesn't always have to be super-clean and streamlined. Above all, it has to tell us what the company it represents is all about. And not every company is going to be the same, they all have characters and motives and goals different from one another.

And if I saw every single company with a skinny-ass logotype, I would kill myself upon realizing that I live in a sci-fi utopia world and that Big Brother is probably watching.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Muse's Mad Maestro: A Process

So after three weeks of mentally treading through the tar and mud of my discombobulated flow of mismatched ideas, I finally got my graphic design project finished.

Seeing as I haven't written here in a while, let me elaborate:
The second project of my graphic design class was to design a spread for a feature article of a music magazine. I knew in a heartbeat that I'd choose to do an article spread on my favorite band Muse, and since I loved and knew them so well, I thought the project would be cake.

Man, was I in for a wake-up call.

We started out with three base sketches, each based from one concept about our band or music-topic of choice. My initial concepts included:
  1. Distrust and the 'Us vs. Them' theme that reoccur in their lyrics
  2. Their live performances and how they're such larger-than-life spectacles
  3. The effortless fusion of the rock and classical genres in their music
I ended up going with the last one because it seemed more conceptually compelling, and I thought I could pull a good image from that. Unfortunately, my first sketch was of Matthew Bellamy playing a mix between a guitar, violin and piano, shooting little cloud images of all his musical inspirations: Queen, Jimi Hendrix, Chopin, Rachmaninoff, etc. Not exactly the most elegant of images.

So I worked at it and thought of what I could do.
Should I draw them in a classical, black and white style? Nah, not BIG enough. I also wanted to make the picture epic, to echo their epicness. That's not a word.
Should I make Matt jump with his guitar into an orchestra? There aren't any good pictures of an orchestra I could use for that...
Should I put cheesy music notes everywhere?
Should I draw the cheesy music notes in a ROCK FASHION?
Should I superimpose their heads onto the bodies of the Greek Muses?*

Nothing seemed to be working out!
I spoke to nearly every single one of my friends and let them push ideas into me and I tried everything, but nothing worked. I was beginning to think that I couldn't do it anymore, that it was just too hard to visually combine rock and classical in the big, bombastic way that Muse does. I felt like I was wading through tar and sinking.

Then, after reading a few good recent articles on Muse, I decided to bang out some new concepts:
  1. They've gone crazy since they produced The Resistance themselves, and pulled out all the stops
  2. There is an air of ~romance~ that permeates through The Resistance, underneath all the resisting and evil governments and random flashes of classical music
  3. Matt the mad maestro.
I loved the third one. The title "Mad Maestro" stayed in my head for a while, because it described Matt perfectly. What else could I say to elaborate on that? He's the Mad Maestro of Muse!

But because I was desperate for something to do, I ran with concept number 2 and produced this.

It was fun, especially painting over Matt's face to make him look more like a Romantic painting, but in the end I still wasn't feeling it.

I came back to "Mad Maestro" and thought, what if I just made him a conductor?
I've played with trying to fuse pictures of him playing his guitar and his piano and being with an orchestra, but I thought that above all those, the conductor of an orchestra would be more widely recognized as a symbol of classical music.
So I superimposed his head onto the body of a conductor.

And then I thought, what about the rock aspect?
Surprisingly simple: Just add a guitar slung over his back!
I liked it a lot. I thought I was going to just title it and get it done, let the image do all the talking. That was the simplest way I could come up with their fusion of rock and classical.

But wait!

It's not exciting enough, not the way Muse actually is! What was wrong with me? I needed something really attention-grabbing and bombastic, just like them, I needed a spectacle and possibly something that relates to space.

Thanks to this fantastic Star Brushset, I was able to very easily produce a nice space background.

After looking through some articles on Smashing Magazine (absolutely great and useful website for all you interested in computer artwork), I utilized some new skills I learned and finished up.

Critique was today.
I noticed a lot of people stopping to look at mine, and that felt really good. A lot of them seemed to like it :) The professor commended my solution to the "rock+classical" problem in the form of maestro-Matt with his guitar (yea, it's his guitar, I even looked up what sort of guitars Matt uses and picked the one that fit best, ha).

I thank everybody for all their help, I know I've been a bit of a whiner and pain for the duration of this project, but eventually I got out of the tar pit and came out with a project I'm truly proud of.

Click image for full view!

Oh, by the way, don't mind the cheesy text. I'm an artist, not a writer :P

*Points to whoever can guess which Muses Matt and Dom are!