Commercial Art and Honey Sweetened Puffs

I use Indesign CS at work. I haven’t gotten very into it yet because there’s pretty much only one task I do. I’d like to do a lot more with it like sell sheets and catalogs.

A few days ago I downloaded the Indesign CS2 trial. It comes with some templates and examples of what’s possible with the program. Download the trial and take a look if you’d like. It really makes you appreciate the artistic qualities of something as seemingly mundane as a newspaper layout or a company’s annual report. Presenting information like this is like an art form in and of itself.

I suppose that’s the difference between art created for personal fulfillment and art created for a commercial purpose. Both forms need to present an idea. The personal project comes from within, wheras the commercial art comes from the organization. The commercial art has clearly defined goals (promote a product, present the annual figures to stockholders, etc). The personal art’s goals are defined by whoever is creating it…if at all.

Whether or not one is “better” over the other is a debate I won’t enter into here, but when you start thinking in this fashion you see it all over the place. Years ago I never thought much of fonts, but now I can appreciate the hard work and effort that goes into a font and how typefaces can clearly effect how the information is interpreted.

And when it comes to commercial art, my mind keeps thinking of cereal boxes. Most breakfast cereals rely on cartoon imagery to catch a child’s eye, and then once the interest is there the marketers of the cereal can use a free toy or puzzle to seal the deal. But I think that first impression is the most important. Some cereals, no matter how cool the toy is inside, will remain on that grocery shelf because of poorly thought out marketing.

Like Kellogg’s Smacks. Smacks is probably the most DISGUSTING cereal I’ve ever had the displeasure of eating, which is why Dig’Em, the Smacks frog, is such an appropriate character for it. Frogs do not do much for my appetite and I suspect that it’s the same case for most people. So Dig’Em, with his warts, his goofy color-clashing blue shoes (meant to label him as a kid) and his deep voice (doesn’t help me believe that hes’ a kid) does not say much for the Smacks brand of honey sweetend puffs. Maybe Kellogg’s found that Dig’Em appeals to children, but to me it seems like they did their marketing research in France. Having Dig’Em on the box lets me know that I will not enjoy the cereal, because I can’t identify with the character, which is just as well because Smacks tastes like ass.

And the amazing thing about that is they brought Dig’Em back after having “Wally The Bear” for a year. Maybe a bear isn’t different enough to really differentiate the brand, especially from a Post cereal like Sugar Crisp, which already uses a bear that goes around singing “can’t get enough of that Sugar Crisp.”

Yet despite how little I think of Smacks, it’s still on store shelves. Who is buying it?

Characters like Snap, Crackle, Pop, Tony the Tiger, and Sonny are really the only difference between national brand cereals and budget brand cereals. Budget brand cereals (like King Vitaman) can probably afford to pass savings onto consumers not necessarily because they are a lesser quality product, but because the budget cereal companies don’t have to continually develop strong branding through the use of characters. The characters used by Post, Kelloggs and General Mills are pop-culture icons that we encounter nearly every day of our lives. King Vitaman is a box of cereal on the shelf near the floor.

The Closest To Geek I’ve Ever Been

Foundation - Web Design with Dreamweaver 8 Tonight I finished reading my first book on webdesign.

I’ve been reading bits and pieces of Foundation Web Design with Dreamweaver 8 for about a little over a month. I’ve always known a little HTML, but never really understood CSS (nor CSS based layouts) until I started reading this.

And my approach to Dreamweaver has always been as if I were working with a Word document. To me it was never important to be standards compliant (or to even understand what that means) and if it looked alright to me, it probably looked alright everywhere else too.

I get skeptical over people who swear by hand-coding everything. I don’t know if they sound like old people talking about the good ol’ days before WYSIWYG editors or if they are truly passionate about hand-coding the same way a baseball fan might feel about the Yankees. Maybe a mixture of both.

To their credit, whenever I’ve used Dreamweaver in the past (I use MX 2004 at work) it always seemed to make incredibly sloppy code. For example, if you made a table in Dreamweaver and then decided that you didn’t want that table and deleted it, it seemed like you’d still have a few table tags in your code. Maybe I was never using it right. Either that or version 8 is a lot better.

My first project with this is going to be a website that hasn’t really been redesigned since the late 90s. I gave it a facelift late last year, but that was before I knew anything. The navbar on it is made with Javascript (generated from Dreamweaver). I want to convert that to a CSS based navbar with hover and active states, etc. The chapter on layouts Plus the template capability is great. Just build your layout once and then define your editable regions. You change the template and Dreamweaver will update all the pages based on that template. Tons of time saved.

The only thing I’m struggling with is IE compatibility…I know I’ve got some people still at version 5 and I keep wondering if I should bend over backwards for these few people or leave them out to dry.

I still have a few more books left. I also have Beginning Web Programming with HTML, XHTML, and CSS from Wrox press. I read a few chapters into that before starting the Friends of Ed book. I also have one on Flash MX 2004 and Adobe Classroom in a Book for Indesign CS2 and Photoshop CS2. I think I’ll be starting the Photoshop one…or the Indesign one. It’s off anyway – I use regular CS.

And the Friends of Ed stuff? Definitely recommended. Part of the reason I stopped with the Wrox (Programmer to Programmer) book was that it was real dry and was actually more of a reference book and I wanted to get up and running ASAP. It uses so much space listing all these deprecated tags that I kind of felt like I was wasting my time. The Friends of Ed stuff (Designer to Designer) seemed much more concise and the language is definitely easier to grasp. But, I do believe in knowing what any HTML WYSIWYG editor is doing (and being able to clean and troubleshoot code) so I still plan on reading through the Web Programming book…I just don’t think it will be as enjoyable.

The Nerdiest Pranks Ever

Ever hear of Improv Everywhere?

Apparently it’s a group founded by a guy who took classes at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade theater in New York. They do something that’s similar to flash mobs, but it’s a little different.

Their latest prank involves getting 80 people to dress up in blue polo shirts and khakis and go to a Best Buy store. When they are asked if they’re employees they say they’re not and when they’re asked to leave they say “I’m just waiting for my girlfriend” or something. If a customer asks them for help they try to help as much as possible, explaining where the digital cameras are, where the latest releases are, etc.

45 minutes later the cops show up.

Another prank is the “Cell Phone Symphony“. They get 60 people to go to a used book store, check in their bags, and go shopping. While shopping, another 60 people call the cell phones that are left on in the stored bags. They organize the parts by ring-tone, brand, etc.

They also have a U2 scene and a suicide jumper scene, which I think is my favorite so far.

Thanks, Jerks…

Well, the bad reviews for the Silent Hill movie have started pouring in. I knew it was going to happen. I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise since the games haven’t been good since Silent Hill 2.

Some choice quotes:

“Silent Hill has plenty of bad acting, bad dialogue and a confusing plot — all of which become exponentially more painful when the movie goes on forever.” “This movie needed a 1987 Sigourney Weaver in the lead role, but instead we get Mitchell, whose performance is rarely convincing. To make matters more ridiculous, she fights alongside the aforementioned police officer, who for no good reason is dressed like one of those strip-o-gram cops — and then has the audacity not to get naked.” Peter Hartlaub – San Francisco Chronicle “The worst kind of horror movie: trash that takes itself seriously.” Elizabeth Weitzman – New York Daily News “The plot would take half a day to describe, which is approximately how long the movie seems to play.” Nathan Lee – The New York Times

Read more reviews at Metacritic.

They Are Night Zombies and all that jazz

So, I knew that Night of The Living Dead was in the public domain, but I did not know that it’s available on the Internet Archive as a DVD-Quality download! Check it out.

Not to be cheesy, but this really is an important film and if you haven’t seen it this is the perfect opportunity. Dawn of the Dead is my favorite, but for 1968 film this is pretty ballsy and, perhaps unintentionally, caused a lot of discussions in this country.

Day of the Dead was eh, but Land of the Dead completely sucked. I don’t think you can make a good movie with both John Leguizamo or Dennis Hopper.

So, start downloading this morning, watch tonight.

You Should Spend Money On This Because It’s MAGICAL!

The Academy awards aired a few weeks ago. I didn’t catch much of it, but what I did see almost always contained the theme for the night.

That theme, of course, was “PLEASE SPEND MONEY AT THE CINEMA!!!”

It’s kind of amusing that they’re on the verge of begging and pleading with you to come to the movies. I don’t know what theaters are like out in Hollywood, but they must be incredible since they cite how “powerful” the movie experience is when shared with other people.

You want to experience raw human emotion and connection? Go to a wedding. Go to a funeral. Go to a bris. Go to an intervention. Don’t go to Mission Impossible III.

The theater around where I live charges $8.25 for a ticket. My initial reaction, because I’ve gotten used to movie tickets being a rip-off, was not “Holy crap, $8.25 for a ticket is expensive!” it was “…where does the $0.25 come from?”

So, after a $8.25 ticket, $5-6 for snacks, you’ve spent nearly $15 for ONE PERSON. For magic. This magic consists of somebody sitting next to you farting out their Double Decker Supreme from Taco Bell and your feet sticking to the floor from spilt soda. For more magic moments, the guy in front of you talks on his cell phone during the movie. Another person another few rows over gets excited at a scene and yells to the screen “SHOOT THAT BITCH!!”

Magical times.

So, when I watched the Academy Awards I thought much about my college graduation. The ceremony consisted of the college president telling us how important it is to “give back” to our college community. Our speaker was a guy who basically stood in front of us and said “I don’t know why I’m up here” for 25 minutes.

That was another magical moment shared with strangers.

My degree isn’t even cold yet and I’m already being asked to donate money to the school, both ath the ceremony and now about a year later (as Jen has also experienced). They should give their alumni a little breathing room to pay off those college loans before they start asking for cash.

Plus, I wouldn’t mind donating to charities and causes I believe in, so when I see that they want to build a new theatre and then some world disaster hits, I’m more likely to give to the Red Cross or something. The school needs new acoustic paneling. The family ravished by a hurricane needs a new house. In that case, I wouldn’t care if the mid-range in the theater sounds like trash.

The value in a college education does not come so much from the classroom as it does from the dorm rooms because of the social and inner awakening you get from newfound independence. So the college “community” is mostly the friends I’ve made there.

And I’m not giving those guys a fricken dime.

Silent Hill: The Movie

Dear Hollywood,

Doom has taken a 150% plunge at the box office and anytime someone mentions videogame movie adaptations they can’t help but bring up Super Mario Brothers. That’s why, I beg of you, to not mess up the Silent Hill movie.

The problem that you seem to be facing is that you depend too much on people going to see your movies simply based on the fact that it’s based on a game that they like, not because it’s quality film. I’m still scratching my head over how you managed to squeeze out a Tomb Raider sequel, although I bet that you have Angelina Jolie to thank.

Honestly, I don’t have much faith that you’ll be faithful to the Silent Hill universe. You did the same thing to Resident Evil. There was the perfect premise for a thriller/mystery movie, and you had to cheese it up with crappy dialogue, clichéd fight scenes and plain bad acting. Have you heard the commentary for Resident Evil: Apocalypse? Nobody knows what they’re talking about.

That’s why before you begin production (too late) you have to keep these points in mind:

1) Use what the games give you While RE and other survival horror games rely on monsters bursting through glass or zombies breaking in through windows for scares, Silent Hill is much more subtle. Having to make sense of the two different “worlds”, unique monsters (Pyramid Head) and what unites the characters (and the games) throughout is not something that should be wasted.

2) There’s really no need for a scantily clad female Silent Hill isn’t supposed to be sexy, it’s supposed to be fucked up. Sure, Silent Hill 2 had Maria and there were the occasional innuendoes, but they weren’t overbearing. Besides, she is fake.

3) Don’t cast Dennis Hopper Three words; Box Office Poison.

4) Akira Yamaoka should be doing the soundtrack Which he is. His sound design and music is really half the game. I’ve got all the soundtracks (probably the pirated Korean versions, but nevertheless…) and pre-ordered Silent Hill 4 just to get the limited edition CD (which I didn’t get because EB employees take the limited edition stuff and put it on Ebay I’m sure).

5) The protagonist cannot be a hero At least in the traditional sense. Part of the appeal of Silent Hill’s lead roles is that they’re not the kinds of people who save the day. Keep it that way. We need an everyday person to have bad stuff happen to, not The Rock.

I’m no movie producer, but I know what I likes. Silent Hill is perhaps the most disturbing title ever. At a time when we were all used to running from T-virus infected dogs and searching for keys to stop Wesker, Silent Hill tried to do something different by relying on our emotions to frighten us instead of zombies and huge snakes.

Please don’t ruin this for me.

NATSEM and the Seminar Sales Pitch

Anyone who works in an office surely gets junk mail, and surely this mail consists of flyers with “Improve Your Management Skills!” and “OSHA Standards and What It Means For Your Business.” Many of these flyers come from National Seminars, or NATSEM.

Seminars are usually held in a hotel right next to a highway exit or right next to an airport. I’ve been to 3 seminars since August; one on Powerpoint, one on marketing, and another on page layout, which is the latest one I’ve attended. They all have the same formula: there’s a greeting and “networking process” for about 30 minutes, an outlook on what the course is about and then the course.

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p>Quickly, within 10 minutes of entering the room, you’ll realize what kind of crowd you’re dealing with. Three kinds of people come to these things;

  1. People who want to learn about the topic
  2. People who were forced to come to the seminar because of their boss
  3. People who come to get a day off or a day out of the office, depending on how you look at it

I have usually been the youngest person at the seminars I’ve attended. Most of the attendees consist of middle-age people who are willing to pay $200 to get a day of someone showing them how to use Powerpoint. They don’t know much about computers. At the page layout seminar the instructor was talking about how everyone should use Indesign because it’s much easier to use than QuarkXPress, and eventually Quark is going to be put out of business. He tried to explain Adobe buying Macromedia. It left a lot of confused people calling back to the office on their cell phones during the break, saying “We’ve got to switch from Quark to Adobe…Why!? Because Indesign just bought Dreamweaver!”

It’s like when people discuss new iPods and say “Have you seen the new iPod that Mac just released!?” When the iTunes Music Store came out I sent a link to my music business teacher and she discussed it in class saying “Did you see what Mac is doing now?” Drives me nuts, but I attempt to forgive them for they know not what they do.

Inevitably you’ll be seated near a #1. You can tell who the #1s are about a half hour into the course. They always have something to say and they’ll agree with everything the instructor says. If you are sitting next to one you will hear the following words many times during the day: yes, absolutely, uh-huh, yup, oh, I, agree, that’s, awful, design. They’re also interested in hearing your life story despite the likelihood of you never seeing them again. They’re also likely to be amazed when an instructor pulls up Photoshop from the OSX dock and lets the icons magnify. “OH! That’s pretty! How did you do that?” If you are not seated next to a person like this then YOU ARE THIS PERSON.

#2s are usually quiet throughout the day, although #3s may have something to contribute other than the standard “Uh-huh”s and “Yes”s of the #1s. I’m somewhat of a conglomeration of all 3. I’m the asshole that’s asking “why should I upgrade to CS2 from CS1?” which probably leaves most attendees scratching their heads.

“See me during the break” is the reply.

Most seminars have breaks every hour. Friday’s however had only 3, and that’s if you count lunch. During the next session the instructor discusses some feature from CS2 and points me out saying “which YOU forgot to ask me about, and we can take this layer and…”

I wanted to reply “No sir, I did not forget to ask you anything. I just didn’t want to interrupt your sales pitch.”

That’s what they don’t advertise in the flyers: the SEMINAR SALES PITCH!

Meshed between the lessons are 10 minute segments of how everyone should own this book, or this software, or whatever. THIS is where the money is made, and it’s the #1s who fall into this trap. They are the only ones who buy the overpriced merchandise, stock photos, whatever is being sold, because they mindlessly take the instructor’s word as if it were sent directly from God. We only get 2 breaks the whole day but we have time to talk for a total of maybe 40 minutes (yes, almost an hour) of why I should buy Digital Juice? “All this can be at your disposal for ONLY $499.99!” It’s ridiculous and I kind of want to be in the class where someone finally snaps and goes off during the pitch. Hopefully I wont’t be seated in the direct path of gunfire.

Probably the worst thing about it is how it’s presented; not so much about the product but more about which box you’ve got to circle to ORDER TODAY! All the seminars come with a free order form like the one you got in elementary school during the Book Farm, or whatever they called it when it came to your school.

During the break the instructor had a beautiful pitch about his DVD; not a DVD he was merely selling, but literally his instructional DVD. He is the main star of the video. He was probably trying to sell it to a #1. How could I interrupt that? He had probably rehearsed it in front of a mirror, maybe to his family…

So, through all the Digital Juice BS and how we have to buy this edition of this stylebook, or this collection of fonts, how much substance is left? What did we learn? If I can get past my feelings of the shameless sales pitches then I feel like I come away with something maybe 50% of the time. Friday’s was the best one I’ve been to, but I shouldn’t have to pay (or rather, companies shouldn’t have to pay) NATSEM to try to sell me all their wonderful resources.

10 Steps To Being A Pain In The Ass At The Office

Step 1: Always Establish Blame. This should be the first thing you do when trouble arises. If there’s a problem, make sure that you distance yourself from it as far as possible. Don’t even attempt to try to solve the problem. This will only make a mess of things and may even bring people to the conclusion that you had something to do with it. Even if you did cause the problem, don’t own up to it. Conveniently forget crucial information when doing so is in your favor. Keep it a secret and see if your coworkers can figure it out. It’ll be a fun puzzle that won’t come back to haunt you until weeks from now, and by then you’ll already be on the next problem, so nobody will even notice!

Step 2: Complain All the time. Make sure everyone knows how much stuff is on your desk. Take the time that you should use to clean off your desk to complain about it instead. Every 15 minutes or so, announce to the office “Wow, my desk is SO COVERED. I can’t even see it there’s so much stuff on it!” Saying this repeatedly will raise the illusion that you’re busy. If you can, remember to whine “Augh…isn’t it 5 o’clock YET?!” If you do this around 2 o’clock it’ll piss everybody off because they’ll look at the clock and realize that they are in for the longest 3 hours they’ve ever experienced. Plus, that’s right about the time when the crash from lunch starts, so that’ll add insult to injury.

Step 3: Bring Personal Problems To Work Hey, you’ve got a life of your own outside of the workplace, and it’s shitty, right? Make sure everyone knows how bad your life is by taking it out on other people. Fuck leaving your feelings at the door. Maybe you forgot to take out the garbage last night and your spouse is making you eat shit for it. How do you unload that stress? Take it out on the first person you see at work the next day! Make sure you let them know that you think that they’re completely incompetent, even though they may not be. Send them an email with an attached document that reads, “Here’s that file you wanted, stupid.”

Step 4: Gossip Talk about things that are none of your goddamn business. This is useful if you don’t have any real personal problems to bring into work because you have no life. Talk about other people’s problems! See how many hidden locations you can discuss them in. Look for privacy in the mail room, lunch room, or even an office that no one uses anymore. If you think you can get away with it, talk on the phone when you should be working.

Now remember, steps 2, 3, and 4 are the holy trinity of being difficult to work with. By themselves they don’t do much, but with their powers combined you can surely be a major pain in the ass.

Step 5: Steal Someone’s Comfortable Chair Oh yeah, this one’s such a stinker that it might ruin someone’s whole week. Maybe this person called out sick or went to take a piss. Now’s your chance! Steal that chair! It’s got the lumbar support and those nice armrests that don’t dry out your skin. Remember to replace the comfy chair with your shitty furniture with all the coffee stains on it and the non-adjustable height. The more broken the better. If they actually have the guts to confront you about it (which they don’t), say something like “Oh, I didn’t think you’d mind.” Surely they do mind that you gave them a bad chair, but ignorance is your friend here. If they demand it back, simply refuse. See how long they’ll go before giving up and heading back to their Dilbert-ridden cubicle like the rat they are.

Step 6: Hold Grudges Never let them go, even if it’s over a stupid thing like if you asked for someone’s honest opinion about your new haircut and they were actually honest with you and told you it sucked. Let your anger penetrate every interaction you have with this person, and you’re well on your way to becoming difficult to approach. Plus, using your anger in everyday situations is the first step to becoming a powerful Sith lord.

Step 7: Be Fake Do this in the least obvious way possible. If you notice someone having a bad moment (possibly from something you did or neglected to do) ask them “Hey, are you alright?” preferably while other people are around, so that they know that the other person is having a rough time. They will wonder what the problem is with this emotional wreck. Not only will this embarrass the individual, but it will also make you look like you really care, even though you don’t. Genius!

Step 8: Get Other People To Do Your Job For You You were assigned to do something that you don’t want to do (much like most of your work), so how do you get out of it? Find some gullible schmuck to help you out. Explain your situation about how “busy” you are. Hell, you’re so busy you can’t even see your desk! End your request by saying “so, can yooooou do it?!” in your best 13 year old girl voice. Usually the victim is so sick and tired of you that they’ll take on your responsibility just to get rid of you. And then when he messes it up (and he will), blame it on him. That person will get fired and you can continue this step with a brand new employee.

Step 9: Be Careless In life, things just don’t happen. You’ve got to make them happen, and this includes mistakes. If you’re part of a group project, make sure that there is as little communication as possible in the group and that nobody knows what he or she is doing. If some smart-alecky newbie person decides to question your methods, snidely reply “well…that’s the way we do things around here!” Add an insult to that line (like “stupid”) and you’re golden.

Step 10: Remember, You Are NOT A TEAM PLAYER This is the most important rule. Sure, during your interview you said that you were great with teams, but you’ve done a lot of crazy things to get your way. Remember that time when you said you were 21 so you could get into that bar, and that other time when you told that woman that you were a doctor? What people don’t know won’t hurt them now, will it? You are working for you. You’re not working for a company. You’re working for a paycheck. Besides, all companies are evil and offer no good to the public. Why can’t you be at home watching Comedy Central? Huh, why not? There is no God.