Archive for the 'Book Review' Category

Times Roundup

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Art direction by Nicholas Blechman
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Two for the Times were done this past week. The first (above) for the Book Review is an illustration paired with a critical account of the new tome about the history of Goldman Sachs and how they have miraculously, (or more accurately), suspiciously survived and emerged still resilient through the current economic crisis.

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Art direction by Aviva Michaelov

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This second one was done for an op/ed calling upon Obama to honor members of the military and government who have stood up to policies permitting torture. The authors posit that since Donald Rumsfeld and George Tenet, having both tacitly approved of enhanced interrogation techniques, have both been awarded honors by the previous president and that Obama should stand to honor the opposing voices. Aviva provided me the rare luxury of sending me the article a short while before midnight the evening before the illustration was due, so I had all night to pull my hair out trying to figure out how to solve the problem. The extra time, in this case, truly was a gift.

Also, for those who are deathly curious: ‘Lux Veritatis’ = ‘Light of Truth.’
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Book Review: The Executive Unbound

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“The Constitution…no longer corresponds to “reality.” Congress has assumed a secondary role to the executive, and the Supreme Court is “a marginal player.” In all “constitutional showdowns,”…the powers that make and judge law have to defer to the power that administers the law.”

Going by the review, the book’s principal conceit is that all three branches of government are equal—it’s just that the executive branch is more equal than the other two, and that may be OK. Harvey Mansfield, the reviewer, doesn’t argue the point, but he does argue the foundation of the thesis. The illustration was done post haste for the Book Review (which also boasted a gorgeous cover by Monika Aichele). Art direction by Nicholas Blechman.

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Essay: Blowing Their Own Cover

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The above piece ran in the Book Review with Alex Berenson’s essay on the CIA over Thanksgiving while I was in absentia in Southeast Asia. The essay discusses several memoirs written by past CIA agents which dish with uniformly unflattering remarks about the agency’s bureaucratic policies and resource-squandering. The principal complaint points to a colossal waste of money as well as ‘fetishizing the rituals of tradecraft’ instead of taking actual risk in the interest of gathering useful, productive intelligence. After reading over the essay twice, visualizing this became a matter of red tape or bust. Mercifully, the Times agreed with the approach.

As an aside, it was no small satisfaction to find a copy of the paper close to a full week after its publication while staggering jetlagged beyond reproach through the Hong Kong airport while waiting for our connecting flight back to New York. As signals of homecoming go, in lieu of a working teleportation device, I was very happy to settle for the newspaper instead.

Art direction: Nicholas Blechman.

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September Roundup / Yesterday’s News

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September’s been a bit of a blur. Amidst the hopscotch of the day job, the night job, Amtrak and the Bolt Bus, I was able to knock out three pieces for three different sections for the Times. Above are two illustrations which accompanied Matt Bai’s piece in the Week In Review a few weeks back which examines the efficacy of Obama’s presidency in a more integrated, global society in which he’s increasingly tethered to the policies of other countries.

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Kelly Doe art directed these two with me—and quite gracefully too when considering that these pictures began as a single spot, before it was briefly considered for the cover, before ultimately being relegated to one spot on the front page and the second piece on the interior. Amidst all of the juggling, she’s calm, that one.

If you treat your news in the same way I treat my New Yorker subscription, you can read the article three weeks too late right here.

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Next up was a quick Letters spot which collected responses to Paul Krugman’s column about the anger coming from the wealthy upper class directed at Obama on account of his raising taxes. Many of the voices who chimed in on the Letters page felt differently.

This was art directed by the Op/Ed page’s brand new assistant art director Alexandra Zsigmond. Alexandra’s good.
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Lastly, this decidedly freakier one above was done for Nicholas Blechman at the Book Review for Laura Kipnis’ book How to Become a Scandal. The book examines the psychological links between the voyeur and the public train wreck and the motives, raging ids and spectacular self deception required to initiate a public scandal. She breaks it down on a case-by-case basis, examining the particulars of Eliot Spitzer, Linda Tripp, James Frey and Lisa Nowack, the diaper-wearing, wig-donning astronaut from a few months back from which the final illustration drew its inspiration.

New projects which were begotten in places besides 620 Eighth Avenue are on the way…

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.

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.

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