Archive for November, 2010

Finally, an opportunity to vent through this blog!  How I thought this day would never come!  So, here it is: My Top 5 Examples of horrendous graphic design:

#5: “Become a Fraction of Your Former Self”

Well, I have to give this designer credit   for a cute idea: making a fraction out the phrase involving a fraction.  The problem is that the line should not cut through the word, “Fraction.”  It makes it hard to read, and, by doing so, most of the comic effect is lost.  Also, why not just put the line subdividing “Become a Fraction” and  “Of your Former Self?”  You’d have to make the line a different color, but it would be much more appealing to the eye.  Not good, but, trust me, it gets worse.

#4: “Desktop Publishing for the Masses.”

This one is on the list for only one reason as well: It violates the most basic rule of all graphic design.  We design something to be legible.  It takes legitimate effort to read this ad.  If you did not notice, I would bet that your eye goes straight to “for the masses.”  Why?  It’s the only legible part of the ad.  “Desktop Publishing” requires way too much effort to read.  Otherwise, it is OK.  The colors pop, and are relatively pleasing to the eye, much unlike some of the others.

#3: Men at Work: Business as Usual

I must admit, I have not heard the album, but based on how it did in the charts, it has got to be better than the album cover.  Well, for starters, I like the idea of the yellow (caution color) for the band “Men at Work.”  But, what do mountains have to do with any of this?  That really bothers me.  Then, you have this amplifier underneath it, which I can say is OK, but what really, really gets me is the “Business as Usual” album title.  You can barely read it, as it is mixed up in a jumble of amplifier, steel, yellow, and black.  Also, what is the first object that grabs your attention?  For me, it was the cable running from the amp (presumably) to the guitar.  Other than the strange random mountain range running on top of the amp, that cable is the next least important piece of the album.  Also, the yellow is overkill.  It started out as a good idea, but, come on, who wants to stare at yellow for a particularly long time?  Not I.

#2: 1968 Mexico City Olympics Poster

If I were tripping on LSD, I might like this one.  Seriously, if you were lucky enough to make out the “Mexico” portion, did you catch the “68.”  I’ll give you a couple hours to look for it.  Yes, it is there, underneath the Olympic circles.  Honestly, if I did not know a little Olympic history, I would have thought it was the 1988 games, if I had been lucky enough to find the area where the numbers were.  These strange lines drive me crazy.  I mean 2001: A Space Odyssey had not come out yet, so what was the deal?  I fail to understand how they could let this go.  You can’t read it, and you are drawn into this helpless maze of disturbing lines.  Again, this must have been inspired by “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” which came out the previous year.  Other than tripping on LSD, I am not sure how anyone can like this or think it was a good idea.

#1: Fall Preview

First of all, I’m sorry you have to even look at this one.  Seriously, where do I begin?  The color scheme is hideous.  There is a difference between choosing colors that pop, and colors that are just plain ugly.  That green was an awful choice.  Not only does it make this odd man look more like a Grinch who was clearly on some sort of high, but it makes the viewer want to throw up.  On top of that, the word “Hot” is one of the few that is legible.  There is nothing “hot” about that Grinch dude or anything else on the cover.  Oh yeah, and you have to really squint to see the “Citilife” subtitle.  I think this “Fall Preview” contained the top 1001 reasons NOT to subscribe to the magazine.


Thanksgiving With the Rodewalds

Ah…yes.  Thanksgiving with my family is always an adventure unlike any other (like any other holiday).  You can always count on a holiday around here being interesting.  This Thanksgiving, we welcomed my brother, Gus, and his family (wife Kristen and two year old son Jet).  Also, my other brother Russell came in from Boston, where he is finishing his master’s degree in nuclear engineering from MIT.  Finally, my uncle came with his family, Holly, Savannah, and Holly’s mother, Francis.  Here are a few photos to enjoy:

All in all, it was a delicious meal and a great evening.  My grandmother also came in from Wisconsin, and it was good to see her again.  The conversation was good, and everybody seemed quite happy.  A good Thanksgiving, and I hope all of you all reading this had a great Thanksgiving as well!

Good Graphic Design

After scouring the internet, I have finally found four great examples of graphic design in order to fulfill the requirement for my digital media class this week.  So, here they are (drum roll please):

#4. The Red Cross ad for help for Pakistan

An advertisement by the Red Cross.

Here is a great example of taking advantage of the season.  As we approach the Holiday season, what better way to convince people to give than to use Christmas icons.  A snow globe?  Brilliant.  It represents the world, and of course the idea of helping people corresponds right with the Holidays.  Ethos is important here as well, and the picture and message are clear, which is always necessary for an effective graphic design example.  A good one, but still number 4.


An advertisement for the Mini Cooper

“Stop Crying.  It’s just hail.”  I love it.  What is the first thing we think of about a Mini Cooper.  Feminine.  Wimpy.  Nope, apparently not.  This makes the car appear more masculine, and note the nice use of yellow, a color that historically has been used to represent warriors.  The trifecta of yellow is great: border, car, “Always open” at the bottom.  The only bad part of the ad is that the bottom of the L is covered by the car.  Good ad.




#2. Another Red Cross ad:

Another Red Cross Ad.

Another effective ad.  It is humorous, and it is simple.  It is a great idea, using the idea of saving the world in a video game applying to helping the Red Cross.  The red is a nice contrast with the white, and the red cross there as the button is nice.  It make me laugh, but it also makes me want to help them.  Effective, clean, classy, funny.  What could be better?





The Number One Ad: McDonald’s

McDonald's Ad. This makes me laugh every time.  Everybody wants free Wi-Fi, and the food (as everyone knows) sells very well.  I like the brown of the wall; it is calming, and using the box to be a computer.  Funny.  Funny is always good, and I like the white contrast.  Just a great ad overall.

Recording a success!

Thanks to Michael Holmes (engineer, piano), Bobby Durham (bass), and Waldo LaTowski, I finished my pre-screening recordings today for NYU, Eastman School of Music, and the University of Miami.  Also a big thanks to Bob Chandler for helping me out, and Dennis Taylor’s wife, Karen Leipziger for being there.  Dennis could not be with us, due to his untimely death, but he was there in spirit.  Sadly, the free wordpress blog that I have will not allow me to put any audio on here, but you can visit my facebook (musician) page and listen to the tracks here A note: the tunes I recorded today were: All Blues, Tune Up, Black Orpheus, Darn That Dream, Billie’s Bounce and Days of Wine and Roses.  The others are old.

On Sunday, I’ll go to the recording studio to record pre-screening tapes for several music schools including NYU, Eastman School of Music, and the University of Miami (Fl).  I’ll lay down six tunes: “Tune Up,” “Billie’s Bounce,” “Days of Wine and Roses,” “Black Orpheus,” and “Darn That Dream.”  I will be accompanied by Mike Holmes (piano), Waldo Latowsky (drums), and Bobby Durham (bass).  These tunes are pretty tough, but I have been working on them quite a bit, including working with them every day this week with my band director, Mr. Bob Chandler.  I will post the recordings here as soon as I have them available.  Here’s a little information about the tunes:

“Tune Up” is a be-bop piece by Miles Davis.  The amazing thing about this tune is that it goes through three keys, and has six key changes per chorus.  It starts out in the key of concert D major for the first four bars (IIm-V7-I progression), C major for the next four bars, and Bb major for the next four bars.  Then, there is a four bar turnaround that goes Em-F7-Bbmaj7-A7.  This leads back into the IIm-V7-I in D, then C, then Bb, and then each chorus ends with one last IIm-V7-I in D.  Be-bop is characterized by advanced harmony and often very fast tempos (usually over 200 beats per minute).  Well on the subject of advanced harmony, this tune was later used by John Coltrane as a basis for his tune “Countdown.”  That particular tune has a fairly similar melody, but Coltrane makes his own chord substitutions, and uses quite a bit of tritone substitution.

“Billie’s Bounce” is a Blues in F, but it is not a standard 12 bar blues.  It is a “Bird Blues,” which means that it is written by Charlie Parker, and has his chord substitutions.  Parker made some chord substitutions.  So, the substitutions allow for more harmony, and more advanced improvisational techniques are required to navigate the changes.  The tune is pretty fast, and has a fairly difficult head, unlike most blues.  It is up-tempo, but not terribly fast, I would say around 155 beats per minute.   A normal 12 bar blues in F would be as follows:




However, a bird blues is as follows:

F7-Bb7 Bdim-F7-Cm7 F7

Bb7-Bb7 Bdim-F7-Am7 D7

Gm-C7-F7 D7-Gm C7

“Days of Wine and Roses” was written by Henry Mancini, and the lyrics were written by Johnny Mercer.  The tune came from the 1962 movie of the same name.  For the most part, the tune is in F major, although there are some spots where one can use the whole tone scale, and even one chord where the F minor scale can be used.  Some bluesy notes (b9 ) work well at times, but it pretty much stays in one key, though there is a very cool turnaround that is showy for a soloist.  The trick with this tune is that it is not a ballad, but it is still pretty slow, which makes it very easy to get ahead of the changes and get lost, which can not happen on Sunday.

“Black Orpheus” is probably the easiest of these tunes.  It is a bossa nova (latin style, straight 8th notes).  For the most part, it hovers around A minor, which is the relative minor of C major.  There are, however, times in the tune where there are some cool chords that one can really play with.  Hitting a G# over an E7 chord works very well, and there is a pretty cool C#dim A7(b9) measure that is good for working outside the key.  There are a couple of bars in D minor, and a couple in E minor as well, but for the most part, the challenge of this tune is playing something melodic.  For me, this will be a showcase on my tone and melody.

The next tune is a bear.  “Darn That Dream.”  An amazingly slow ballad, with more chord changes than grains of sand on a beach.  No, seriously.  At times, there are 4 chord changes per measure!  Often times, they are not very close to each other either.  The first measure contains 3 chords: A major, Cminor, F7.  What?  Voice leading is a HUGE challenge on this song, and you can not get lost, because if you do it is very obvious.  Also, because the tune moves so slowly, the great player can not just play the melody like it is written.  You must take a lot of liberties with the melody in order to keep it from being too boring.

The very last tune is another Miles Davis tune, “All Blues.”  It comes off of the Kind of Blue record, so this will be interesting to try.  It is a pretty standard blues in G, but the tough part of it is that it is in 6/8.  This tune lends itself to being a modal tune, so I will use a lot of mixolydian and dorian scales.  Simple melodies work well, and are necessary to help you keep your place because the tune simply feels so strange.

Also, this will take place on November 14, one day after my late saxophone teacher, Dennis Taylor’s, birthday.  So, happy birthday DT!  Also, a big thanks to Dennis and his wife, Karen Leipziger, for helping to set this up.

Shattered Glass Review

“Ian Restil, a 15-year-old computer hacker who looks like an even more adolescent version of Bill Gates, is throwing a tantrum. “I want more money. I want a Miata. I want a trip to Disney World. I want X-Men comic book #1. I want a lifetime subscription to Playboy – and throw in Penthouse. Show me the money! Show me the money!. . . .”
Across the table, executives from a California software firm called Jukt Micronics are listening and trying ever so delicately to oblige. “Excuse me, sir”, one of the suits says tentatively to the pimply teenager. “Excuse me. Pardon me for interrupting you, sir. We can arrange more money for you.” – Stephen Glass, from the article, “Hack Heaven” that eventually caused the downfall of his journalistic career.

He was a patholigocal liar.  He was a journalist.  His writing was coveted by every major publication in the United States.  Then, Stephen Glass wrote, “Hack Heaven,” the piece that finally destroyed the journalistic career of a bright, young journalist recently graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. 

Shattered Glass tells the story of Stephen Glass, a 23 year old rising star at The New Republic magazine.  Glass had worked his way up to being an associate editor at the publication.  However, a series of stories started to seem questionable.  Finally, Adam Penenberg, a reporter at Forbes sought so do a follow up on one of Glass’s stories, “Hack Heaven.”  That article told the story of 15-year-old Ian Restil, and how he had, by hacking the software company Jukt Micronics’s website, essentially extorted millions of dollars from the company.  There was only one problem: none of this actually existed.  There was no evidence to support that Jukt Micronics was a real company, nor to support that Ian Restil existed.  Glass had been found out.  He had fabricated notes, created fake business cards, and even had his brother, a student at Stanford University, pose on the phone as Jukt Micronics’s CEO, George Simms.  Eventually though, editor Chuck Lane was forced to fire Stephen Glass.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about this film was how well Glass was portrayed as a liar.  The viewer wants to believe him.  In fact, until near the very end of the film, the viewer is sure that there is going to be some sort of justification for what Glass did.  He has to be innocent.  This must go to the brilliant acting of Hayden Christianson, who plays Stephen Glass in the film.  Indeed, the film accurately recorded sentiments later recounted by Chuck Lane when he said, “We extended normal human trust to someone who basically lacked a conscience…We busy, friendly folks were no match for such a willful deceiver…We thought Glass was interested in our personal lives, or our struggles with work, and we thought it was because he cared. Actually, it was all about sizing us up and searching for vulnerabilities. What we saw as concern was actually contempt.”  The movie could not have done a better job of communicating those thoughts to the viewer.  At the end, just like Chuck Lane, we were shocked, we were horrified that this journalist, who seemed to care so much, was just a liar.  Nothing more.