Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Pokémon Shock

So, after having a half dozen people explain (and one demonstrate) exactly what this Pokémon Go business is, I think I finally understand. And while it's a neat use of technology and augmented reality, I just don't see myself getting hooked. But what do I know, I'm not a gamer*.
What I am hooked on, is the news surrounding this app. Car accidents? Robberies? Dead bodies?

This isn't the first time Pokémon has caused injury to its fans. Back in 1997, at the height of Pokémon popularity, an episode aired in Japan that sent nearly 700 children to the hospital.

The episode was call "Electric Soldier Porygon", and towards the end of the episode, Pikachu uses lightning to blow up some missiles. Animators illustrated this using a rapid strobing technique which flashed red-to-blue to make the explosion look virtual.

The flashing colors had immediate effects – children passed out, or experienced blurred vision. Some even suffered from seizures and temporary blindness. Most of the 685 children that were taken by to hospitals recovered quickly, but a few were diagnosed with epilepsy, triggered by the lighting effect.
"Pokémon Shock" was the result of a strobe lighting. 1 in 4000 people suffered from photosensitive seizures. And since over 4 million kids were watching the episode, the effects were vast. 

After this incident, Pokémon went off the air for 4 months to evaluate their animation techniques. The episode never aired in the US. 

Nintendo stock took a major hit. Unlike this week, when Pokémon Go has their stock rocketing up this week. (And small business are even turning the Pokémon Go fad into creative marketing opportunities.)

Want to see the "Pokémon Shock" clip? Do so at your own risk!

*Also, I've never seen an episode of Pokémon, so I'm still not entirely sure what a Pikachu is....

Friday, July 8, 2016

Burning Art

Danny Shervin from Jackson Hole, Wyoming is lighting the art scene on fire. Literally. 
He calls it Painting with Gunpowder, and basically designs pictures with gunpowder, and then lights it on fire. When the powder burns away you're left with a beautiful etched effect.

It's a process he stumbled upon while a student at the University of Montana. He "paints" primarily wildlife subjects, which he meticulously lays in powder before setting the scene ablaze. Check it out:

I'm curious as to what the paintings sounds like while it's burning. Does it Crackle? Does it Pop? (is it reminiscent to eating a bowl of Rice Krispies??) 

Since I know all you pyros out there are having post-July4th withdrawal, here's another one. 
You can see (and purchase) more of Shervin's work on his website, paintingwithgunpowder.com.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Good, Clean, Animal Fun

I love good clean fun. I also love animals. 
Recently at the LA Zoo, visitors were treated some little known facts about some of the zoo's animals. 
The elaborate prank was staged by comedian Jeff Wysaski (who goes by "Obvious Plant"). The comedian's has also been known to leave his own title recommendations at bookstores.
I love this kind of humor— no one was hurt, and a good laugh was had. And let's be honest, this probably got more social hits and buzz than any marketing or PR stunt coordinated by the zoo is likely too. That's the thing with marketing, sometimes you can't plan it, but if you're fortunate to capture some attention – embrace it!

I put this one down as a clever prank, worth a good chuckle, no reason to get upset. The signage looks pretty legit- though next time I think I'd shy away from using scotch tape!

Do you also love animal facts? Check out Sad Animals Facts on Instagram. These (true) doodles will intrigue and devastate you. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Little Gert, Big Deal

Three local historians spoke at the Grand Rapids Public Library as part of an Greater Grand Rapids Women's History Council event last month—profiling the Berkey & Gay factory girls and the first woman on the Kent County Commission, Grace Ames Van Hoesen. 

The third speaker, Drew Damron, a local librarian, historian and cartoonist, spoke about Gertrude Van Houten, one of the first female cartoonists in the nation–and the first to cartoon for a local audience. 

I had never heard of "Gert", but I figured I would be able to Google her when I got home and find a whole history and archive of her work. But, wow, the only information available seems to be as it relates to Drew Damron and June's speaker event. Looks like Damron may have a market for some very niche Grand Rapids history.* 

Here's what I learned about Gert. Gertrude Van Houten started work at The Grand Rapids Press in 1917 and quickly became a local celebrity. Her work often appeared on the front page of the paper and touched on a broad range of local, societal, and political topics. 

In the corner of every cartoon, Gert added "Little Gert", who often added a punchline or quip to the frame. The mark became well known locally and the character was later used to endorse retail products.  

Grand Rapids Press – 10/31/1918


During World War I, Gert was sent to Washington DC to draw on location and to keep Grand Rapids informed of wartime developments. After returning to Grand Rapids, she worked at The Chronicle, owned by George Walsh, and later began a career in advertising and fashion illustration. 

The Interpreter - 1970s

Gert's other local claim to acclaim, is designing (not sculpting) the John Ball statue at the John Ball Zoo entrance. For this design, she was paid $20 (in the 1920s... about $250 today).

Eventually, Gert left Michigan, living in New York and California for a time before returning to Grand Rapids in 1970 at the age of 80 and once again, working for George Walsh at The Interpreter.

I hope Damron continues to explore Gert's life and someday offers Grand Rapids a more extensive retrospective. Without his curiosity, this amazing career may have been lost to the archives.

*Damron does currently have a booklet on Gert available for purchase.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Makin' Mushrooms (of the non-edible variety)

The other day, I was trolling my Instagram feed per usual, and I came across a design*sponge post with these beautiful, delicate mushrooms, which they said were made from paper. 
And I thought, 'No way."

Come to find out, it's all about the paper. Kate is using crepe paper for the mushroom cap, honeycomb paper for texture and a straw to support the stem. While it still seems like a delicate fingered activity, it no longer seems impossible. 
The design is from The Cobra Lily, which specializes in the construction of paper flowers and plants.

If you want to give it a go, her full mushroom making tutorial is available on Design*Sponge here.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

UICA Visit: 2016 Color of the Year

2016 is the first year that Pantone® has released TWO colors for it's annual Color of the Year.
PMS 13-1520 Rose Quartz and PMS 15-3915 Serenity are a soft combination of warm and cool. 

When choosing a Color of the Year, Pantone chooses a color that will resonate around the world. Rose Quartz and Serenity are very contemporary, meant to inspire a soothing, peaceful feeling.

The 2016 colors are much calmer, more relaxed colors than the previous 12 years. This is in response to modern day stress and our hectic lifestyles. The colors are a calming antidote to everyday demands. 

The colors also blur traditional gender associations. This social trend toward gender fluidity has led to an increased comfort with using color as a form of expression.

The UICA in downtown Grand Rapids has a X-Rite Pantone Color of the Year exhibit on until Sunday, July 31, 2016. A row of gorgeous gowns line the main hallway, visible from the long windows along Fulton. These dresses drew me inside. All are made from light, flowing, soft materials. They create an airy feeling, a simple display of beauty and comfort. 

Several of the exhibition pieces incorporate a gentle, windy feeling or actual blown elements.There's a tranquil feeling throughout the entire exhibition— I was the only visitor in the gallery (this is not unusual at the UICA) and a quiet lull of indie music followed me throughout. 

Overall, they definitely achieved a peaceful space, and I feel like the 2016 color choices are very modern, quiet, and mature. They are a fresh step forward, away from the past palette which has tended to scream "Look at me!" 

Could that really be the direction society is heading?? 

Stop by and see for yourself, now thru July 31st.

A Family of Typophiles

I don't really think about fonts having a history prior to the digital age of computers and drop-down menus. But typography have been a factor since the 15th century and the advent of the printing press*. 

To put it in perspective, here's a timeline of approximate dates that some (perhaps familiar) fonts were developed:

1520s – Garamond
1722 – Caslon
1757 – Baskerville
1767 – Bodini
1818 - Didot
1928 – Gill Sans
1931 – Times New Roman
1957 – Helvetica
1982 – Arial
1994 – Comic Sans
2000 – Gotham 

Fonts surround as every day — Street signs. Menus. Newspapers. Emails. Most type isn't even noticed, which is usually how you know a typeface has been properly chosen.

In the book Just My Type,Simon Garfield goes through 500 years of typefaces. He tackles some important questions... How did Helvetica take over the world? Is Comic Sans the world's most hated font?? Did the font Gotham get President Obama elected???

It's somewhat of an academic read, and I believe you have sincerely love fonts to really get into it. But I thought it was interesting and full of tidbits that I later found myself sharing with others. Things like:
  • J is the last letter added to the alphabet—in the 1500s. If you Google this, people seem very concerned with how Jesus existed before the letter J did.
  • Eric Gill, the creator of Gill Sans, was a pervert. He sexually abused children AND a dog. Although he preferred to call himself "curious" rather than "perverse".
  • Times New Roman was commissioned by the British newspaper The Times. They used Times New Roman for 40 years. Since 1972, the paper has switched their font 5 times.
  • In 1962, an advertising company created the interrobang, or the interrogative point, for a campaign they were working on. The intention was to combine the functions of the question mark and exclamation point. It hasn't really caught on.
  • "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" is a pangram, a phrase that uses all the letters of the alphabet. It has been used to sample typefaces since the 1880s. The word "Hamburger" is often used when a single word sample is necessary, as it includes ascenders and descenders, and a variety of letter forms.
There was one controversial font that I found suspiciously absent from Garfield's book... Papyrus. Are we just out of things to say about it? Or is it better to just not acknowledge it?

*That makes them over 550 years old!!!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Skeleton Dance

In 1950s Soviet Russia popular Western music banned under severe U.S.S.R. censorship. But, as history has often taught us, with restriction comes high demand. And an underground culture of illegal music and ideas grew. 

But copying and creating musical records required the use of vinyl. Records printed on coated paper only lasted a few days. It was Ruslan Bogoslowski that discovered* you could encode music onto medical x-rays, that could be pulled from hospital archives or trash bins. 
This was called Bone Music, and a black market of bone smuggling soon spread through Russia. A December 2015 99% Invisible podcast tells the story of how dissident kitchens became night clubs and how the KGB's cracked down on the "ribs" by flooding the market with fakes.

I just think these records are stunningly beautiful, and can only imagine how creepy the skeletons must look when dancing around a turntable. 
For years, I've had the idea to take the large x-rays I have of my own spine, and to turn it into a lampshade. Having now discovered bone music, I think I will move that project to the top of my summer DIY list. 

*A discovery that would later land him in a Siberian prison for 5 year. 

Bunnies, and kittens, and bears, oh my....

Since I recently posted about Lisa Frank and the Adult Coloring Trend it seems appropriate that I mention the epic announcement that the Lisa Frank Adult Coloring Book is "coming soon"!
Announced on Instagram last week, the news has the blogs a buzzin'. So far only one image has been released but it has all us '90s gals dreaming about pandas and unicorns and rainbows and kittens....

So what's the full story behind the mysterious Lisa Frank empire? Read about the dark side in this 2013 jezebel article.