Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year, Old Traditions

Today is the last day of the year 2009.

It's been a mixed bag this year, hasn't it? All that craziness with the Iranian election, not to mention all the celebrities that passed away this year... I myself have struggled with many things, including my art, my beliefs, where I stand with others, and who I am as a person.

For me, 2009 feels like the beginning of a change. I'm in my 4th year of college, but in no way am I graduating just yet. I'm on the cusp of adulthood and I'm slowly gaining more freedom and responsibilities than I had when I first started attending university. I'm starting to think about where I'm going, and to be honest, I can't see the end of it. It's a little scary.

2010 is approaching, and it only reminds me of the passing of time and what we must all do to keep up in terms of environmental, political, social, personal and interpersonal issues. I don't say this to scare you all, but more as a reminder, a motivation. We're marching toward the future, we are here and we are now; the future belongs with us.

All right, I didn't really intend to give that ramble, but there it is! XD
Onto more light-hearted things, like my underwear.

It's covered in polka-dots.
My shirt is bright red.
I'm changing my sheets,
and there are 12 different types of round fruit within my household.
You can bet that at 12 midnight, I'll be wishing a Happy New Year with my family.

These are all rather superstitious traditions upheld by my mother, who has insisted on following them since we were kids. Polka-dots and red are good luck, and the 12 fruits thing is, too (I think it's for prosperity). These are all Chinese traditions that I really should had grown out of, but as I put on my clothes for the day, I can't help but adhere to these traditions. When I was a kid I thought it was fun, and truly believed that good luck would come. But now I do it out of... habit? Tradition? Maybe it's still fun for me.

My mother also believes that whatever happens on the New Year's Day will repeat itself throughout the year. That, I'm not entirely sure I believe, because I know there a lot of things I want to do this year that wouldn't fit in one day!

As of about 3 years ago, I stopped believing in New Year's Resolutions. Every time I made them, they failed. It seemed like just another tradition, one that I wasn't able to keep. After all, shouldn't one set goals regardless of what day it is?

However, right now I feel inspired to create a list of goals for 2010, thanks to my friend Jenny here who did the same thing. There are many things I want to do, as I've said before, and perhaps lining them out here will help me focus on each of them. Let's give it a shot!

So, in 2010, I want to...

1. Art more.
Much like Jenny's "write more," this relates directly to my talent, passion, and career field of choice. I've got many many interests, but above those I am an artist, this is what I've chosen to do. And what good is an artist who doesn't draw, sketch, paint, and experiment on a regular basis? I'll fade into obsolescence! To promote this, I'll be joining NaBloPoMo for January 2010, and instead of merely writing an entry every day, I'm going to post a drawing or some form of art every day. Somehow, needing to keep up with NaBloPoMo motivates me, the pressure of delivering something every day keeps me going, even if it's nothing too significant.

2. Continue to be more proactive.
This is a skill that gained more points this year, but I want it to keep going in the following year. 2009 saw my very first paid design commission, and 2010 is bound to see more (seriously, I've already got two more gigs lined up!). I need to get it together and really learn how to deliver on time. Aside from things like these, I need to cut down on the procrastination and silly forgetfulness when it comes to really important things. I'll write things down constantly. I need to so I can remember. That's what sketchbooks are (partially) for, right?

3. Build a personal website by the end of the year.
That's right. Even though I'm basically HTML-retarded, I will learn, my website will rock, and it will contain my portfolio and resume, to be updated frequently. Of course, I'd have to have artwork in order to create a portfolio site, which ties into #1 and leads me to...

4. Create more finished artwork
This is a huge thing for me. I can sketch as much as I want, but what good am I if I don't crank out some serious personal artwork? I only ever seem to get things done in class, and that's not going to help me. My winter break is all of January, so throughout all that I'm going to create at least ONE finished piece in any medium. And it will be on the portfolio.

The previous four are all related somehow, and have everything to do with advancing my art both personally and career-wise. This is all well and good, but let's see if I can inject some more personal goals...

5. Learn to accept when things don't go my way.
I don't know what happened, but somehow, I developed a short temper in 2009 for when things wouldn't go my way. If something didn't go my way I'd take it very personally and everybody knew it. It's not healthy for me, it's not healthy for others, it's got to go. I need to meditate, to need to breathe deeply and count to 10, I need to find something else to do.

6. Exercise.
Around 100% of my anxiety could be at least lessened by exercising! This is such a common "resolution" that I almost didn't want to put it because I might jinx it. But hey, there it is. What can I do? Exercise is so broad. I can bike, I like biking better than running because running makes my legs itch (as in really painful itching). I could do yoga. Continue training with José. There.

7. Learn to cook.
How could I not, seriously? Cooking is fun, as I found from our recent shindig with my friends :D I can make tempura now, and watch out later! Burgers, pizza, delicious things! Man that is so broad, but somehow I'll make it happen. With a little help from my friends.

This is all I could think to put in here right now.
I'm gonna hit the ground running (or skipping, since running makes my legs itche)—tomorrow you'll see the first of 31 sketches I'll be posting hopefully every day throughout the month. And hopefully I'll have learned something.

Adios, 2009!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

What happens in Vegas...

...gets posted to the blog!

Hey guys!
It's been nearly a year since I last shook my fist at Las Vegas casinos, hounding "one more year!" And here I am, 21 and fresh-faced (if a bit pink) and fresh out of the shower after about an hour of slots.

The family and I arrived here at noon and promptly went to our old family friend's house. We knew them from Germany, and some other Germany-era families were there as well. We did this last year. This is becoming a tradition that I like. We hung out there, watched Step Brothers, played Egyptian War/Ratscrew, messed around and generally had a good time. We were there for a good while before coming back to the hotel. We're actually not staying at our regular Mandalay Bay this time, but instead the brand new M Hotel, Spa & Casino. It's actually way far away from the strip, but whatevs.

So earlier (midnight, to be precise) my dad and I went down to the casino and he showed me how to play slots. He provided the money out of an envelope, explaining the need for a budget when playing at Vegas lest you spend way more than you intended. That made me think that you had to go in with the idea that you could lose everything you set aside, which I found to be true when I started playing. We stuck to the penny and quarter slots, putting in $10-20 at a time and making small wins enough to keep us going. The first time I touched my first slot machine (Wheel of Fortune), my finger was met with a loud crack of static shock, and I drew my hand back: I remember I used to hate Vegas because of the combination of carpeted floors, dry air and metal, which made for frequent static shocks. I hated static shocks.

I brought my hand back and pushed the button, and got a SPIN on my first try and won a small amount of credits. Nothing significant happened there, so we moved to some quarter slots and kept playing.

I won $50! It added to the $10 my dad had put into the machine, so I got a $60 voucher that I could either cash in or play with. I put it away so my mom could take a picture of me with it later (I'll post it later). My dad bought me a strawberry daiquiri for my win, and said that if we waited around at the slots for a waitress, we could get it for free. When we went to another set of slots, that's what we did.

As I blew bubbles in my second strawberry daiquiri that night, I started to assign different levels of "luck" to my methods of playing. For example, if I wasn't getting anything by pushing the SPIN button, I'd alternate to pulling the lever on the side, old-school style, hoping that that would make a difference. Sometimes it did, sometimes it didn't, but near the bottom of the drink I was positive that it made a difference. I noticed that the specific slot machine I was playing at was made by KONAMI, and I idly wondered if I can enter the famous code somewhere and win thousands of dollars. Hee hee.

After I got bored I took out another voucher ($16) and went to play Video BlackJack. That ate away all my money FAST. I don't think I was paying very much attention, oops. That's when I decided to go back up to the room (shortly after my dad said I was getting pink and should go anyway). As I made my way back up to the room, I started to think about slots more.

The slots were fun, and I can see how they can become addicting. Just one more time, one more time and I can get a win like that! But how much money will it take until you play enough to get that win? And unless it's a Jackpot far above what you spent on it, would it be worth it? I got lucky because I played with my dad's money and he let me keep my win, but would I be willing to shell out so much of my own money? As of right now, as an unemployed student, hell no. I would also rather play something like BlackJack or Poker, where I feel I would have a little more control over my chances, unlike alternating between pushing a button and pulling a lever. The card games, dealers and players intimidated me somewhat though, so I'll save that for another day.

Which will probably be, once again, in one more year!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Being a Kid

I recently came across this article, Childhood: Then and Now by the fantastic blogger who calls herself V. Like V for Vendetta. Are you getting chills yet?

Anyway, she basically illustrates the differences between the carefree childhood she had back then to the joyless childhood most chilren experience now, mostly due to overprotection and fear mongering. Through her many stories, V lets readers know that as a child she fell down, she got lost, she got hurt, made friends with kids, and got humiliated, and to this day she is neither dead or too socially messed up to matter. Over the years I think parents have lost that trust that their kids are smart enough to take care of themselves—smart enough to not need them hovering over their shoulders 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

As a kid I definitely got to experience the same joys V did.
When we lived in Germany, our family would often go on trips to neighboring countries with other U.S. military families we were friends with. While our parents shopped and looked in awe at historical landmarks, us kids would run around until we saw the nearest gelato shop, only to run back and ask for a few francs or lire (no Euros back then) to buy a scoop. Let me repeat for effect: my parents allowed my sister and I to run around a foreign country with our friends. Why? Because she knew that we weren't stupid enough to get lost.

And what if we did? What about all those creepers in the world?
I remember being confronted by a sort of creeper in Italy. He was an older man selling this little light-up yoyos. At first I was interested, but said no because I didn't have money and I already had a yoyo. I left with my friends to find my parents, but the peddler kept following me, lowering his price until I said yes. I kept saying no and moved faster to our tour bus, which he followed me on until my dad angrily drove him off.

My younger sister was once lost at a water park in Belgium, and we found her holding the hand of a Belgian security guard who was desperately trying to speak to her in French. She couldn't have been more than 6 years old at the time, and she knew who to trust when she was lost.

We never fell into the hands of a rapist in a white van.
We used our inherent kid's-instinct to gauge which adults could and could not be trusted if ever we needed help.

My mom let me walk to the Shoppette (sort of a military version of a 7-11) by myself, with my I.D. proudly slung around my neck, to buy a pack of Skittles with allowance I had earned from helping her with chores. She also started leaving me home alone at 8 years old. I didn't answer the door, I didn't answer the phone until the answering machine came on and I heard my mom or dad's voice. I stayed at home, watched cartoons, didn't go outside and made simple treats for myself, like Pop-Tarts. One time I actually set the toaster on fire while toasting Pop-Tarts, and I was home alone! The first thing I did was call my mom and ask her what to do. Actually the first thing I thought was to throw water on it, but it's a good thing I knew enough to ask my mom what to do first.

As V points out in her article, kids today just don't know how to do anything without adults, even play sometimes. Adults today are so afraid of every little thing that could possibly happen and they shelter their kids from doing anything without their permission. They don't trust them. They don't trust that they'll know right from wrong, good from bad, unless mommy's there to hold their hands. And like V points out again, the same parents become so surprised when they grow up to find out that their kids are too socially retarded to do anything on their own.

We need to bring some of that back. Are there really a lot more creeps in the world, or is there just more spotlight being shed on them? With the internet, TV and radio flooding us with horrific events happening in some city or county, each little event added up leads us to believe that these things can happen every single day in every single place. While that's true, it doesn't mean we should hole ourselves up and never come out again. Just stick to some simple rules: don't let your kids out alone in the dark, make sure they know your phone numbers, how to get home, and how not to talk to strangers. If you still can't bring yourself to let your kid off its leash, then you've got some trust issues.

When I grow up and have kids, I want to model my parenting after my cousin, Kuya X (yes, we actually call him that). He, his wife and 3 kids live together in our neighborhood. Their kids play outside every day with the other neighborhood kids: skateboarding, biking, roller blading, squealing at something or another, making lines in the dirt, the things that kids are supposed to do and have fun doing. I remember when his kids were toddlers and they'd hit their heads on the coffee table, they'd get up crying and all he'd do is give their heads a once-over and go, "Ehhh, you're all right." And they'd get up and walk away, no longer crying.

They're always playing with other kids. My cousin and his wife taught them how to be social because they themselves are social, they know everybody in the neighborhood! Just the fact that they are social like that in this day and age impresses me. Oh and by the way, his twin girls, both in the 4th grade, hate Hannah Montana and the Jonas Brothers. They think, and I quote, that they are "lame."

Kids like these give me much hope for our future.

Again, you MUST read V's article, Childhood: Then and Now.
And then read the rest of her other articles, like I'm doing.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Sochi 2014 Olympic Logo

I know, I know, it's only 2009 and I want to talk about the 2014 Olympic logo?
What spurred me to want to discuss it was this article hi-lighting the two choices for the logo. It's new and fine, unlike Vancouver 2010 which is just around the corner, or the London 2012 logo, which... man, I don't even wanna talk about it.

But anyway, here were the two logo choices for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia:

The logo chosen was the second one:

Since this blog is not exclusively a "design blog" and most of my readers do not partake in graphic design, your initial reaction as a viewer and consumer were probably the same as mine: what the hell were they thinking?!

The article I linked to up there (and will link to again at the end of this post) provides explanations of each logo and the stories behind them, as well as the 100+ comments from designers waxing poetic on the virtues and flaws of each design from a designer's standpoint.

So since all that's been done, I'll devote this post to looking at it from an everyman's standpoint. Of course I'll throw in my own views from a design perspective, but I'm watering it down so I don't end up rewriting the whole article.

First Reactions
When I first look at these, I'm instantly attracted to the first: it's colorful, circular, and dynamic. What's not to love about it? It screams "Olympics!" And any person with the most basic knowledge of the Olympics would recognize the symbolic laureate wreath within the logo.

Then when I found out that they picked, my jaw dropped. It's... it's largely typographic. It's cold. It's dull. What happened there?

The Breakdown
After looking at them more and thinking about what the logo is supposed to call for (as a designer, I'm supposed to do that!), I realized that the actually works for this event, and there are several reasons why.

First of all, the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia is a transitory event. It happens once, and it won't happen again. It's temporary, and the argument there is that the logo doesn't need to be flashy as all get-out. The laureate wreath logo is beautiful and it has history behind it (involving a traditional Russian circle dance and a firebird from Slavic folklore), but all that comes across to most viewers is "laureate wreath! Olympic colors!" It's basically doing the original Olympic logo's job all over again. Nobody is going to know about the circle dance or the firebird from that logo; besides, we have plenty of time to understand Russia's culture and history during the Opening Ceremonies and such., while not as flashy and pretty as the laureate wreath logo, is very functional on all levels: it includes the website, so that in itself is a call to action. There is a slight mirror in the "sochi" and "2014" that is attractive and apparently representative of Sochi's location—it sits right on the Black Sea, where the mountains meet the water. While it's esoteric like the dance and firebird represented in the first logo, the connection becomes more apparent with the location.

The typeface is terrific! It instantly reminded me of Russian cyrillic letterforms, easily associated with Russia. I can (and have) also make the joke that the logo is cold and unfriendly, just like Russia! It's stereotypical, but hey, we're all thinking it.

There is also a second part to the identity:

These little ice crystal things. It's cute and it works. Not the most impressive thing, but at least they aren't snowflakes. It's also very light-hearted, which balances out the heaviness of the logo itself. Every time I type that I'm really saying "sochi-dot-ru" to myself.

The logo doesn't scream "Olympics" to start. It takes a while for you to process it... it's a new logo, then you see this little Olympic rings logo at the bottom. This is the Olympics? What? And to answer your question, is right there to guide you to the website.

Oh yeah, and when it's blown up to a huge size it looks really powerful and impressive... kind of like Russia.

So after all this, it's easy to see why they picked it.
It represents the host city and country well, serves as a call to action, and isn't redundant like the first one. Even though the first one is pretty.

I highly encourage you to read the original article in full, to get the whole gist of both logos and read what other designers have to say about it.