Archive for June, 2010

Op/Ed – The Triumphant Decline of the WASP

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Last month, it was hornets. This month, it’s the WASPs (mercifully in phonetics only).

The op/ed above explores how Protestants’ latter practice of inclusion and equal opportunity in both academics as well as their broad perception of worldwide religious practices has succeeded so thoroughly that with the presumed confirmation of Elena Kagan, the Supreme Court will contain zero protestants, where it had once held a definitive majority. Professor Noah Feldman, who wrote the article, takes care to stress that it’s a rare bit of good news that religious practices aren’t such a crucial, modern  distinction when determining who would be a good fit for the court of courts.

The illustration above was arrived at after my first five attempts took goose eggs at the editorial desk. A handful of the coulda-shoulda-wouldas are below.
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(I was the teeniest bit sorry that this one was relegated to the gallows).

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The art direction and negative space virtuosity comes courtesy of Aviva Michaelov.

WSJ – The Openness Elixir

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This is a quick one that I recently wrapped up for the Wall Street Journal’s book review in their Weekend section. The article jumps on two new books that explore the value of decision making principally guided by the expert advice of others. A purely hypothetical example of this would be the chief of a large petroleum company consulting scientists and engineers to help determine how to best plug up a troublesome leak on an oil rig out in coastal waters. How much or how little should the direction and suggestion of these experts be weighed when determining a solution to this completely imaginary, entirely speculative problem? Enter two warring tomes: The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley and Wrong: Why Experts Keep Failing Us—and How to Know When Not to Trust Them by David H. Freedman.

As the titles may suggest, these two books approach a similar problem from opposite perspectives, so art director Marne Mayer and I needed to grab on to an image that played off of visual polarities while still avoiding the whole black vs. white / day vs. night / up vs.down / half empty vs. half full tropes which have been previously traversed for this sort of thing in the past. Hence, our final above and below.

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In drawing a connection to my own role as the illustrator in this instance and one of the principal pictorial “experts” in that situation (and I’m taking a lot of excessive liberties by even using that word in quotations for myself), I was uncommonly convinced to near certainty that one of the two the below sketches would be a shoe-ins for the final when submitting my comps.

Expert am me.

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Book Review – No War Left Behind

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What began decades ago as a cadre of liberals who questioned the economic policies entwined with LBJ’s Great Society are today not much more than Republicans who constantly auger for expanded arms programs and military intervention, whatever the circumstance. At least that’s how a Neoconservative is presently defined in the review for the appropriately titled Neoconservatism: The Biography of a Movement by Justin Vaïsse in the NYT Book Review this week.

The original pitch for this illustration was to experiment with portraits, (not unlike what was arrived at for this piece), but when photos didn’t materialize in as timely a manner as we’d hoped, we sought out a more typographic approach and landed on the above image.

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The other directions that I was playing with in the early stages leaned way too much on the author and reviewer’s present, hawkish impression of neoconservatives and didn’t make any suggestion of the movement’s origin which, all things being equal, wouldn’t have been as complete a representation of the piece as the image that was chosen. In retrospect, I’m relieved that these other ones were not considered:

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Fair and balanced art direction by Nicholas Blechman.

The Atlantic – Rent a White Guy

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Fresh from the Crazy-Enough-To-Be-True Department is a piece about white men (who are not business executives) being hired to pose as American business executives for social meet-and-greets in China. The story, running in The Atlantic, is one of those rare pieces that is honestly, genuinely stranger than it sounds—particularly if you spend any spare time during the off-work hours pondering the notion of white privilege. Mitch Moxley’s intro goes like this:

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Not Long ago I was offered work as a quality-control expert with an American company in China I’d never heard of. No experience necessary—which was good, because I had none. I’d be paid $1,000 for a week, put up in a fancy hotel, and wined and dined in Dongying, an industrial city in Shandong province I’d also never heard of. The only requirements were a fair complexion and a suit.”

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As straightforward as it reads, the details that Moxley expands upon in the piece begin to tickle the nagging, guilty questions a white man such as myself might ask themselves. A prime example being: “Would this be greatest job ever, or a silent stealth curse which would quietly poison foreign trade for years to come?”

I’ll go ahead and say it’s probably both. The only other people I know who get paid to watch movies all day still have the obligation of writing about them later.

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Art direction by (the patient) Melissa Bluey.

TIME – Logic of the Leak

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Leslie Gelb discusses the motives behind the White House leaking particular details of a top secret war strategy session with the current major players in the ongoing Iraq/Afghanistan conflict to the press in this week’s issue of TIME. He suggests that while it’s a bit of a nasty move, it’s nevertheless an effective one as it grants the White House some additional leverage in forcing the army to follow through with the timetable that was established verbally in that same meeting.

Based on the article, my personal presumption is that Leslie Gelb doesn’t suck at Chess.

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The illustration above was done at the pace of an op-ed (read: warp speed) with Andreé Kahlmorgan at the art directorial helm. The additional sketches I took stabs at are posted below:

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Buzz. Buzz?! Buzz!

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I’m ashamed to say that as of this writing, I may be the sole individual on earth over the age of 25 who hasn’t yet had their reading time fully consumed by Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy. Given the frequency with which which American popular culture gloms itself onto pro-feminist deceased authors from Sweden, these books are freakin’ popular. Having not read any of the books yet, I was marginally proud of myself for not having any of the stories spoiled for me by anyone, but that ended fairly abruptly when I was asked to do the cover of the Book Review for their lead review for Larsson’s final posthumous work, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, (which as you may or may not have noticed, has received just the slightest bit of press in the past few weeks).

David Kamp warns any potential newbies to the trilogy very early on in his review that it’s near impossible to discuss the events of the third book without giving a quick and dirty breakdown of the plots from the previous two, so despite my best efforts to carve out some time to go into these books pure—I was thwarted by the opportunity to make a bunch of pictures.

The review splits time between discussing the trio of books as a publishing phenomenon in the first half and the particulars of the Hornet’s Nest volume in the latter. Because of this, the comps I submitted volleyed back and forth between those two poles in the hopes that something would stick. Two of my six fallen soldiers are below:

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Nicholas Blechman was travelling when this came along, so the art directorial reigns were governed by the notorious Kim Bost on this one.