Entries for July 2007

July 27, 2007

Bad Fake New Yorker Cartoons

Gawker has asked its readers to submit their worst fake New Yorker cartoon. So I came up with this one. Unfortunately, I can’t decide if it’s too obscure a reference or too obvious an idea. Is it possible to be both?


Hmm. Maybe I should have drawn a scalpel in there somewhere…

July 24, 2007

60 Seconds in the Life of the Galapagos Islands

Parts 22-28 in an ongoing series of (approximately) 60 second films.

I just got back from the Galapagos Islands. It was amazing. We went snorkeling with sea lions and sea turtles, saw all sorts of animals that don’t exist anywhere else, and learned a lot while we were doing it. But instead of going on and on about how great it was, I’m going to condense the experience into two simple posts. This one has videos, and this post has photos. None of them do the experience justice.

60 Seconds in the Life of the Waved Albatross

The Waved Albatross breeds only on Espanola Island. They mate for life, so when they first hook up they go through an elaborate dance to get to know each other, so they will recognize each other when they return to the Island to mate again after they go foraging off the coast of Peru. This is what their courtship dance looks like:

60 Seconds in the Life of Sally Lightfoot Crabs

These aren’t endemic to the Galapagos, but they’re fairly abundant. It wasn’t unusual to see several dozen at a time along the rocky shores. I’ve always thought crabs looked pretty cool, like little alien robots. But I had no idea crabs could jump. Watch the background and you’ll see.

60 Seconds in the Life of Blue Footed Boobies

They have a silly name, and they look kind of silly on land. But in flight and on the hunt, Blue Footed Boobies look like another creature altogether — bomber planes. They fly around looking for schools of fish, and then dive straight into the water to grab what they can, as seen in this video. It was shot from a dinghy in choppy water, so I apologize for the shakiness:

60 Seconds in the Life of Marine Iguanas

The Galapagos Islands have the only iguanas in the world that forage in the sea. They hold their breath and dive down to eat algae for minutes at a time, and then hang out en masse on shore when they’re done. I think they were my favorite animals on the whole trip. Charles Darwin wrote about them, “The black Lava rocks on the beach are frequented by large (2-3 ft) most disgusting clumsy Lizards. They are as black as the porous rocks over which they crawl & seek their prey from the Sea. I call them ‘imps of darkness’.”

60 Seconds in the Life of Frigatebirds

Frigatebirds are the ones you may have seen photos of with the big red inflated pouches that look like balloons. They fly over water, but they never land on water. Instead, they steal from other birds like pirates in mid-air. In flight, they have incredible silhouettes, with their forked tails and pointed, angled wings. These birds were filmed flying over our boat, arriving as soon as they smelled food, presumably hoping for our scraps.

60 Seconds in the Life of Flightless Cormorants

The flightless cormorant is endemic to Galapagos, and it’s the only variety of cormorant that can’t fly. In cormorant families, both parents care for the child in the nest, but at some point the mother abandons the family to go mate with someone else. In this clip, a father cormorant watches over the baby cormorant while the mother is out getting food. Either that, or she’s out “getting food” nudge nudge wink wink.

60 Seconds in the Life of Giant Tortoises

Galapagos means “saddleback” and the islands were named for the giant tortoises that live there, some of which have shells that resemble saddles. When competing for territory, Giant Tortoises extend their necks upward, and whoever’s neck extends furthest wins. The following clip is cut short because my neck apparently doesn’t extend far enough.

Unfortunately, all this video is low-res and only goes so far in doing the islands justice. Check out the photos for more.

July 11, 2007

Top 5 Remainder Ideas

I’m off to the Galapagos Islands, so I won’t be posting anything or replying to e-mails for the next two weeks. Try not to make a mess of the place while I’m gone. Hopefully the Spambots won’t take over.

To give you something to talk about, I’m leaving you with my Top 5 “Remainder” Ideas. These are just a few of the many ideas I’d jotted down in the past but decided weren’t worth fleshing out into full posts for one reason or another. Since they will probably remain that way, I figure they’re better off posted here than wallowing in obscurity. It may be more obvious why some never made it to full posts than others.

Remainder Idea #5: Bring back the Ford Prefect

I had this thought one day that Ford could make it big with Science Fiction fans by introducing a new car in its defunct Prefect product line. Then I actually looked at the old Ford Prefects, and wondered if maybe there was a good reason the Ford Prefects aren’t around anymore. I don’t know how you’d give that old car a modern feel.

Remainder Idea #4: The World’s Mildest Salsa

Salsa companies always brag that they have the world’s hottest salsa. But what about people who just want flavor? Why doesn’t anybody market a product as the world’s mildest salsa? I think there’s a missed opportunity here.

Remainder Idea #3: “The Short Con”

In the con artist’s world, a “long con” is a term referring to an elaborate and drawn out scam where the victim actually hands over his money repeatedly, going back to the ATM (or his home, or office) for more and more money. A “short con” refers to a quick scam where the goal is simply to get whatever money the victim has at the moment. Well, I thought “The Short Con” would make a great name for a movie about a con artist who happens to be really short, and who specializes in short cons. Somehow, he gets involved in a long con. Naturally, he would be played by Danny DeVito. I didn’t get much further than that.

Remainder Idea #2: My Amazon “Don’t buy me this” List

On Amazon.com, you can create a Wish List of items you want, and rank them by priority so people know what to get you for your birthday. Not long ago, the lowest ranking you could give an item was labeled “Don’t buy me this.” I wondered why on Earth anybody would bother putting something on their “Wish” list and then rank it “Don’t buy me this.” So I put together a whole list of only things I didn’t want people to buy me on Amazon, and ranked them as “Don’t buy me this.” I don’t remember what was on the list anymore except for a few things like some earrings that looked like chewed gum, a talking Ann Coulter doll (for which my comment was something like, “I’d rather have a bag of dirt”), and an actual bag of dirt. Shortly after I put together my list, Amazon changed the Wish Lists so the lowest priority rank no longer says “Don’t buy me this.” It just says “lowest.” And then my list wasn’t funny anymore. To the contrary, it suggested that I kinda wanted a talking Ann Coulter doll and a bag of dirt, but just a little bit.

Remainder Idea #1: Webstr

This was my idea for a Web 2.0 site for people who want to adopt orphan sit-com boys (the one for adopting orphan sit-com girls is called PunkyBrewstr of course, and they’re both in perpetual beta). I even went so far as to make a Webstr logo, using the old Webster TV show font in Flickr logo colors. But then I decided it wasn’t funny enough, and I set it aside until I could come up with a better idea for what a Web 2.0 site called Webstr would be. That never happened.

Interesting note: While working on Webstr, I realized that adopted kids were a big theme in 80s sit-coms. Punky Brewster was adopted. Webster was adopted. Arnold and Willis were adopted. Ricky Stratton was adopted. Well, reunited with his long lost father, anyway. Close, though. Any others?

Bonus remainder idea: The Top 10 Reasons Phil Donahue Should Be President

One day I realized that I think Phil Donahue is a pretty level-headed guy and I mostly agree with his politics. I thought it would be funny to put together a list of the Top Ten Reasons he should be President. Unfortunately, I only thought of one, and it’s probably only funny to hardcore Phil Donahue fans, and that’s not enough for a good post. So let’s just pretend I’ve come up with 10 reasons, and you’ve just read reasons 10 through 2, and they were very funny, so I can go ahead and tell you the one funny reason I came up with. Ready? “And the Number 1 reason why Phil Donahue should be President is…. That First Lady!”

See you all in a couple weeks!

July 9, 2007

Terrorist organization logos

Terrorism Logos
How am I supposed to know what terrorist group put out this video?
Terrorist groups, like any organization, need brand identities. With so many groups claiming credit for terrorist acts, and so many videotapes being put out featuring men in ski masks, it’s hard to keep track of which group committed what violent act. So terrorist organizations have logos. It recently occurred to me that someone had to actually design those logos. But how did they decide who gets to do it? Did the job go to whichever terrorist had a copy of Adobe Illustrator?

I did some research and rounded up as many logos as I could find from terrorist groups past and present. While I hate to give terrorists any more attention, I still think it’s interesting to see the various approaches they took in their logos, and wonder what considerations went into designing them. Does the logo successfully convey the organization’s message? Is it confusingly similar to another group’s logo? Does it exhibit excessive drop shadows, gradients, or use of whatever font is the Arabic equivalent of Papyrus?

Quick Disclaimer: I picked these terrorist groups from a list of designated terrorist organizations on Wikipedia. Since Wikipedia is a user-edited website, I can’t verify who decided these groups are terrorist organizations. So if it turns out one of these groups is an actual army or a legitimate non-violent organization, don’t blame me.

I decided to group the logos roughly by their dominant design elements:

1) Stars

It occurs to me that “stars inside circles” is a subgroup of this category.


2) One Gun

Notice that there’s a little bit of overlap between this group and the last group. The last two “Stars” logos featured a gun, but I decided that the star motif was strong enough to keep them in the “Star” group. The first logo in this group has a star, too, but it’s small.


The bottom three logos are presented in the order they were designed, each inspired by the one before it.

3) Two guns crossed

Why settle for one gun, when you can have two?


4) Other weapons crossed

Guns are so barbaric. Here are some logos which feature blades instead.


5) Crossbones

White supremacists seem to prefer skulls over swords. Hey, haven’t I seen that Combat 18 logo somewhere before?


6) Animals with multiple heads

The SLA’s seven-headed cobra, below, was apparently taken from an ancient Sri Lankan symbol.


[Note: There is interesting discussion in the comments below over what constitutes a terrorist group, with the Kosovo Liberation Army particularly being called into question, and comments an both sides of the issue. The BBC has an interesting history of the KLA here, explaining why the US urged Kosovo Albanians to regard the KLA as a terrorist group, and why the Kosovo Albanians stopped short of that designation. I intend no offense by this logo’s inclusion.]

7) Other

What to make of the rest? I’m not sure what the Oromo Liberation Front logo is supposed to suggest. And that “EPB” logo doesn’t inspire terror at all. It looks like an Olympic team logo. I’ve never heard of the Creativity Movement before, and now I still have no idea what they stand for. What’s with the “W”?


Note:This weekend, an Al Qaeda suicide bomber killed 150 people in a market north of Baghdad. Another 250 were wounded. When this news broke, I had already begun working on this blog entry, and thinking of those victims made it hard to finish. So I just want to be clear that, although this entry focuses on a relatively trivial aspect of terror organizations, it is in no way intended to make light of terrorism. The guns, the blades, the maps of Israel, and other elements in these logos do effectively communicate with painful clarity what some of these groups intend. While my overview of terrorist logos is meant half-seriously as an examination of graphic design in a place we might not think to look, I don’t want to minimize the devastation these groups have wrought.

July 5, 2007

Idea: The Alien Stapler

I recently rewatched the Alien movies. I must still have Aliens on my mind because today I got a little creeped out by my stapler (it’s the one on the right):

Alien Vs. Stapler

All this leads me to the thought: They should make a stapler shaped like the Alien. And it should have one of those staple trays that reloads by extending outward, instead of having to open the top.

Previously: Yip-Yip Martian Binder Clips