3/4 of 2015

My year was bookended by wrangling a newborn and ten months later, a new job. On the occasions that Oona powered down to sleep and offered up some oxygen to her beginner parents, the smart thing to have done would have been to sleep when she slept.

I was not smart.

I stayed up well past my bedtime more often than I should have and opted instead to test the elasticity of the universe’s long proven maxim that there really can be too much of a good thing. I’m grateful that most of this was legitimately fun. Here is everything I’ve been meaning to post from as far back as April and as recently as December:

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Scribner / 2016

A collection of linked stories deploying magical realism from Jewish folklore intertwining with true life monsters of Nazi-occupied Poland. Thank you Jaya Miceli.

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W.W. Norton / 2016

The former governor of the Bank of England taking the longview of financial crises through the decades up to and including the most recent one which he was in part responsible for steadying in the UK.

ADs: Chin-Yee Lai & Eleen Cheung
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Polity / 2015

…and a wholly separate book about crises from the UK, this one by the noted sociologist and UNESCO chair in gender research. The book looks at the particulars of economic collapse through a wider view of risk and catastrophe through history. Vivé la unyieldingly grim difference.

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Soft Skull / 2016

A collection of linked stories surrounding a cast of down-and-outers, recovering addicts and desperate, though dignified, delusional people. One such recovering addict is tricked into stealing a tiger. Before reading this, (and setting aside The Hangover), stealing a tiger struck me as something that one really ought to be fully cognizant of between the planning and the endgame. The sole agent of predictability in the event of a tiger-napping is that the tiger will dependably go “full tiger” if feeling threatened (as one might) in the middle of such a thing. Mitigating circumstances be damned.

The writing offers a clever persuasion that tiger theft is totally something that could happen by chance. And that all participants need not be completely lucid.

AD: Kelly Winton

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Verso / 2016

For Andy Pressman at Verso. A survey of China’s last century pooled in the interest of determining what’s realistically needed for the country to become legitimately democratic. The design depended upon the type doubling as a barrier to an open, unobstructed view of Shanghai with the gaps in the type serving to suggest possibilities of a more open future.

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FSG / 2016

In which growing distrust of antidepressants is countered point for point. For Rodrigo Corral at FSG.

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Penguin / 2016

Hopefully, the cover tells you everything you need to know without defaulting to any tropes requiring fingertips or fingerprints (although alas, a hand).

AD: Roseanne Serra.

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The Atlantic / Don’t Overthink It

An illustration for The Atlantic’s book review looking at Matthew Crawford’s debunking of the Enlightenment. The critic was unmoved.

AD: Lauren Giordano

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Psychology Today / The Science of Ending Conflict

For a lengthy scientific exploration which takes a molecular approach to how violence and the impulse to cause harm, could possibly, maybe be unwoven out of humans’ DNA provided that the conditions were pretty close to perfect. I wouldn’t expect a universal peace accord anytime soon but still, some optimism here.

AD: Ed Levine

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A mind-melding with Gail Bichler and Caleb Bennett for the NYT Magazine’s Spring cover on digital imperialism. This was printed with metallic silver and fluorescent red inks either to simulate the day-glo constancy of life on the internet or as a print-based rebuke to its expanding dominance depending on who you ask.

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Maxim / The Vanishing Act

A type construction for a David Copperfield essay exploring the substance and power of making something disappear using the sum of the man’s own words. It’s easier to read (albeit less fun) if you look at it here.

AD: David Zamdmer

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In which I could truthfully end a phone call by using the words: “I need to go. I have a conference call with Terry Gross.”

Fresh Air‘s producers Molly Seavy-Nesper & Danny Miller contacted me a week prior to the end of my paternity leave in February asking if I was available to attempt a re-imagining of their logo. After a handful of said aforementioned conference calls and conversations about the show’s mission coupled with what they were certain that they didn’t want to use to represent them, we approached the mark with the intent of representing, as simply as possible, the kind of two-way exchange of ideas and perspectives that are heard and expected regularly on the show. The show is obviously grounded in talk and as a result, the typography aimed to honor that back-and-forth that she so expertly keeps conversational without ever tipping over into confessional. Months after it was approved, they shared with me that this was the only Fresh Air rebrand that they had taken to completion and executed in the show’s history since their original logo.

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This was an honor in every respect.

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“Nail Biter #1″

I drew this one afternoon this past summer as the sun was going down to avoid biting my nails while trying to close the op/ed page on time. It was late and I was waiting on final art from an illustrator and pestering them about a deadline that they were already well aware of seemed counterproductive for me and unsupportive to the artist. And fighting that nail biting impulse is difficult.

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NYT Op/Ed / Pluto Comes Into Focus

This illustration exists because of peculiar circumstances lining up together in the span of a few hours.

In my last year ADing the op/ed page, I had deliberately backed off from illustrating anything for the page as my feelings about the church/state-like separation between it and the assigning art director started to calcify more clearly in my personal approach to art direction than it had in previous years.

Also, Oona was, at this point in the year, maybe only 8 months old and I was sleeping about as well as one might suspect someone living with an 8 month old to be sleeping and relying on my brain to solve problems like an op/ed illustration on short notice (even for the person who sees what’s coming down the pike first) began to feel like a tall order which, if miscalculated, could backfire in all manner of spectacular ruin.

This became an exception because of the following circumstances:

1. The artist who’s interpretation of this historic moment with Pluto I wanted to see more than anyone else’s was unavailable that day.

And,

2. I had to pick Oona up from day care that afternoon at 5:00 by any means necessary. Traditionally this is hardly ever the case. (I drop her off in the morning if that’s considered important).

Also,

3. Because Pluto.

On the subway on my way into the office I drew this very quickly and, having no other thoughts that matched that one in drama or directness, assembled it as swiftly as I could upon getting into the building and laid it at my editors’ feet begging them to love it.

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There’s an unforgivably corny dad quip to be made about moving Heaven, Earth and Pluto in order to pick up a baby from day care on time without incident but it will not be written down here.

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NYT Magazine / How ‘Rockstar’ Became a Business Buzzword / The Unwelcome Return of ‘Illegals’ / ‘Moment’ is Having a Moment

In August, one of my favorite living illustrators went on vacation and consequently paused in his regular weekly post visualizing the First Words column of the NYT Magazine and they were stuck with me filling in for three weeks. In that time, my tasks included: a consideration of how the word ‘rockstar’ had been co-opted to refer to anybody who excelled in corporate performance—basically the antithesis of an actual rockstar…

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…Also how the casual use of the word ‘illegals’ on the campaign trail and elsewhere casually dehumanizes whole cultures and casually isolates the USA further still in the eyes of everyone else.

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…and also how the term ‘moment’ is in itself experiencing a period of raised public profile (which modern English has somehow made synonymous with ‘moment’).

AD: Jason Sfetko

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The New Yorker / Fiction: Reading Comprehension: Text No. 1 by Alejandro Zambra

For New Yorker’s fiction slot done over the summer. I loved reading this and it still stands as the only surrealist work focusing on test cheating I’ve encountered. Thank you Chris Curry.

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The New Yorker / Malcolm Gladwell: What Social Scientists Learned from Katrina

If there is an upside to be found in Hurricane Katrina’s fallout, Malcolm Gladwell has better-than-average odds of elucidating it persuasively. On Katrina’s anniversary this past summer, he wrote about how the lives of many of the families depopulated by Katrina really did land upon better circumstances for themselves because of Katrina; Although there’s an equally compelling reminder to be made about exceptions, rules, their essential differences, etc. Thanks once more, Chris Curry.

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The Upshot (NYT) / Americans Are Finally Eating Less

A twofer for The Upshot about how Americans are eating less fast food now than in recent decades, but that the decrease wasn’t offset with eating more healthy alternatives as a counterweight.

AD: Nicholas Blechman

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NYT Book Review / The Law of the Land

A Book Review cover rounding up three monster tomes on either the Supreme Court or significant Supreme Court cases or significant Supreme Court justices. This was assembled entirely with cut paper.

“A few weeks later I moved my desk a whole 15 feet and began art directing the section itself which, given its legacy of stewards, was neither intimidating nor inspired any internal mania or self-imposed pressure whatsoever,” he lied.

Thank you Jolene Cuyler.

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Playboy / Fiction: Crow County Moses by Callan Wink

In which a grown adult, via his trade, motivates his own mother to pick up a copy of Playboy—in the interest of reading one of the articles, no less. Here is a just finished illustration for Playboy‘s 12/2015 fiction by Callan Wink about a forced, less-than-comfortable father and son fishing trip and the stream of conscious memories of the son he rifles through as they get lost on the road.

AD: Paul Lussier.

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And now I will pause.

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