Monday, September 26, 2016

Know what really grinds my gears?

Out now in the current issue of The Atlantic is my piece for an article on the state of the U.S. economy, especially with regard to innovation and new business creation. Hint: it's not great. Why? Because we have a pretty serious monopoly problem in this country, that is looking increasingly like the gilded age of the late 19th century. As the article explains, nearly every industry is concentrated into a few humongous corporations that control a vast majority of the market in their respective sectors. Whether it's clothing, health insurance, airlines, cable, supermarkets, publishing- you name it- it's an oligopoly.



Pick up a copy, or read the article here. Thanks to, Paul!


Thursday, September 1, 2016

Work for L'OBS

I had the pleasure of working on a piece for French magazine L'OBS a couple weeks back. The article was an interview with author and sociologist Alondra Nelson, and centered around the use of genetic tests by African Americans. Using companies like African Ancestry, African Americans can use these tests to trace the roots that were cut off by the slave trade hundreds of years ago.


The tests can provide African Americans with a more in-depth understanding of their family origins. As the article points out, Africa is made up of dozens of countries, and many more languages and cultures- a fact that the term "African American" doesn't quite acknowledge. Narrowing one's roots down to a particular region or even tribe can be an exciting undertaking, that was impossible until recent advancements in genetic mapping. And by proving the family ties, it may also be used by descendants of slaves to help in obtaining reparations from companies whose wealth is directly attributable to slavery.
Here's the spread:



Thank you to Catherine!



Wednesday, August 31, 2016

This blog is protected by video surveillance

I should have posted this a couple weeks or so ago, but I've got a spare minute so here it is: a spot for The New York Times Book Review. It's for Security, by Gina Wohlsdorf, a slasher type mystery thriller about two killers that stalk their victims at a swanky hotel. What makes this story a bit different is that it's told from the perspective of the hotel's ubiquitous security cameras.




The image is pretty small, so the instructions were to keep it simple and graphic. I've always liked those "security camera in use" signs outside convenience stores, and decided to modify the image a bit. It was a fun little piece to do. Read the review here. Thank you to Matt Dorfman, my AD on this! More stuff to come when I know the publications are out...

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Rudy CAN Fail

Another quick Op-Ed piece running in today's New York Times. This one for a piece on Rudy Giuliani's recent comments regarding crime and violence in the Black community. They serve mainly to deflect attention away from the spate of high profile police shootings of African American men, and the continued racial bias in policing.


 Many Black men have commented on their experiences with police, and the feeling of being under constant surveillance, and the threat of harassment. Statistics bear out this truth, that African Americans are far more likely to be stopped by police, yet less likely to be carrying drugs or weapons than Whites. A police hat hanging overhead like a black cloud worked out as a simple way to show this omnipresent feeling.


Also in today's paper is a new report showing data that suggests police are bias against African Americans in the use of force, but not in shootings. Some people are using this report to further obfuscate the truth behind police racial bias (despite the fact that it still shows police are more likely to use force of all kinds against African Americans). This new report only takes into account data from 10 major cities, only 4% of the U.S. population, and relies solely on police testimony. It also stands at odds with other sources, like The Washington Post and The Guardian, which show just how disproportionately Black men are killed by police compared to White men. In 2015, based on all reported police killings in the U.S., Black males from age 15 to 34 were killed by police at rates five times higher than White males age 15-34.

Thank you to my AD, Sarah!

Monday, July 11, 2016

NY Times Op-Eds

I've been doing some Op-Ed work for The New York Times lately. Here are a few recent assignments:


This was for an Op-Ed on the recent Baghdad suicide bombing attack that killed over 200 people. It explains how ISIS is changing tactics in desperation as the group loses territory.


 This one detailed the recent police shootings of innocent Black men in Baton Rouge and St. Paul, and how although these types of incidents have been happening for a long, long time, they are now widely caught on video.


This piece accompanied an Op-Ed on the first fatal crash involving any kind of automated vehicle. Although the Tesla involved was not a "driverless" car, the article mentioned some of the things automakers and regulators should do to keep this technology safe, and prevent more fatalities.

Update:
Figured I'd add this one in, another Op-Ed piece on the truck attack in Nice, France, and the resilience the French have shown after 3 major tragedies in 19 months:





These Op-Ed assignments are always a fun challenge. With a deadline of only a few hours, they force you to think quick, and keep it simple. It definitely keeps you on your toes. Thank you so much to Nathan and Sarah!



Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Grand Old Pity Party

A couple months back, before we moved, I got a commission from The Atlantic magazine for a feature on the current state (as well as some history) of the GOP. It was highlighting how the Republican party, under the banner of Trump, has become the party of White rage. When Republicans in California turned to White Nativism in the 1990s (by bashing Mexican immigrants), the party all but disappeared from the political map in that state. History seems to be repeating itself with the rhetoric of people like Trump, as he plays on the fears of some Whites that their country has been taken from them.

As is occasionally the case, the magazine ended up going the route of photography instead of illustration, but I was so excited about a few of my sketches that I decided to finish them, just for fun.


The red/white/black color palette is meant to evoke a connection to the fact that several prominent White Power/Supremacy groups have voiced support for Trump.



As the Latino population in the US continues to grow, anti-immigrant rhetoric and proposals such as the "wall" at the Mexican border, causes Republican support to dwindle. As the article states, even among GOP members, the "wall" was the most important factor dividing pro-Trump and anti-Trump Republicans.


The piece likened this "White Strategy" to another infamous election scheme: Nixon's "Southern Strategy." Both played on White fears of a particular minority, and the anger at a perceived loss of position in the social hierarchy, as a way to move White voters to the polls.
Thank you to Darhil, for the original commission! 

It's only speculation

This little piece is in the current issue of Mother Jones magazine, for an article on the proposed Financial Transaction Tax, which is a tiny tax on the sale of stocks, bonds and derivatives. Unlike sales taxes generally, which are basically regressive, an FTT would largely only affect the rich.



The tax is seen as a simple way of generating revenue, as well as curbing more destructive Wall Street behavior, like speculation via high-frequency trading (which was the culprit for the flash crash in May 2010, and others like it). The article even mentions Dean Baker, of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (who I linked to in a previous post about an FTT in Italy), who believes the tax could raise over $130 billion a year. Pick up a copy of Mother Jones and read all about it, along with some great stories, including Shane Bauer's experience as a private prison guard.
Here's my issue:


Thank you so much to my wonderful AD, Ivy!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

On No-Fly, No-Buy

I would have liked to post this in a more timely manner, but I had to take a brief hiatus from work while we moved across the country to our new home in Cambridge, Mass. We're not sure how long we'll be here, at least a couple years, but it's a nice change from a place I've never really lived outside of since I was a kid.
Anyway, this piece appeared in the L.A. Times Op-Ed, shortly after the Pulse massacre in Orlando. It's a debate arguing whether having one's name on the No-Fly list should prevent that person from purchasing guns.


It was a super quick turnaround because it was going in the Sunday paper, but it was such an important subject to undertake after such a horrific event, I was honored to get the opportunity. This idea was one of the first I had, and it easily won out. My AD Wes gave me the whole page for it, and his layout looks great. I hope to post other recent pieces when I get some spare moments- there's a bit of a backlog. Stay tuned...

Friday, June 3, 2016

Music T.V.- but with music

This full-page piece for the L.A. Times' Envelope section was out last week. The story follows the recent musical trend in television. With roots going back to shows from the 90s like "Gypsy" and the less popular "Cop Rock," the craze has been gaining steam over the last several years. Whether it's dramas based on musicians and the music industry, such as "Vinyl" and "Empire," or musicals broadcast on t.v., like "Glee" or "Grease," television is all about the tunes lately.


You can read the article here. Thank you to my AD, the terrific Wes Bausmith!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

It's Electric! Boogie woogie woogie.

The current issue of The Atlantic (yes, the one with Trump's giant head on the cover) is out, and includes a piece I did for an article on a hypothetical national electrical grid. One that can transport energy long distances, across the country:


The article points out the vulnerability of certain natural energy sources like wind and solar: the fact that the sun isn't always shining, and the wind isn't always blowing where a given population needs it to. But it's always sunny or windy somewhere. And if we had a national power grid to transport solar energy from a sunny Texas, to a gloomy Maine, those vulnerabilities disappear. It would be a big project, similar to Eisenhower's national interstate highway system. But it's possible, and very necessary, if we want to keep our world inhabitable. It's a great subject, and I had a bunch of fun creating this U.S.-shaped wiring diagram.


 And going back to Trump, check out the issue to see some great editorial design work. The Trump feature (subject notwithstanding) looks great.



Look at that portrait! For anyone not familiar with editorial design, the middle of the magazine spread where the pages meet is called the "gutter." How fitting. There are some things possible only in print, that digital editions, and websites just can't replicate. Not sure if one particular person is solely responsible for the design on this feature, but the team includes CD Darhil Crooks, AD Paul Spella, and designer Kara Gordon. They put together a great looking issue, and I'm proud to be a part of it.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

True grit

The new issue of The Atlantic is out, and features this piece of mine, for an article asking if "dogged, single-minded persistence" is always a good thing.


The article is centered around a forthcoming book by psychologist Angela Duckworth, titled Grit, where she argues that experiencing setback after setback can be beneficial in education as well as the professional realm. Overcoming these setbacks helps to strengthen one's resolve. And Duckworth found that some of the most successful people have gotten where they are due to their handling of setbacks and obstacles. This may seem self-evident, but the article questions, with the precarious nature of work these days, and how some industries appear and vanish with the trends, is it always a good idea to keep your nose to the grindstone? Is it sometimes better to give up, and try something else?


Thank you to Paul, my AD on this. Grab a copy and check out the story, or find it online here.



Friday, April 8, 2016

But I'm gonna try for the kingdom, if I can

 After working on a book review illustration for Denis Johnson's novel The Laughing Monsters, I sought out more of his work. I came across Jesus' Son, a collection of his short stories about addiction, hopelessness, despair, and redemption. Although they are separate stories, published previously in places like The New Yorker and Esquire and The Paris Review, they seem to work as one cohesive story. They are all narrated by what seems to be the same person, though it's never explicitly explained who, in what may or may not be chronological order. In many of the stories, the narrator's nickname is Fuckhead.

I've made a mock cover for Johnson's novella Train Dreams, and what could be thought of as mock covers for some of David Foster Wallace's short stories, but with these I was picturing them more in their original form, in the magazines that first published them. As full pages, like the ones that accompany fiction in The New Yorker. If you haven't read any of these stories, first off: go get Jesus' Son, and read them! The whole book is 133 pages, it won't take long, and I assure you, you'll be glad you did. Second: these descriptions may contain spoilers, but that won't matter if you've heeded my first suggestion.



The first story in the collection, "Car Crash While Hitchhiking" finds the narrator seemingly at one of his lowest points. In a blur of alcohol, pills and hashish, he (yep, you guessed it) hitchhikes up the Mid-West in a series of vehicles manned by the suppliers of his booze and drugs. Along the way, on a highway in Missouri with a family that picked him up, he's involved in a head-on collision during a rainstorm. Oddly enough, he has foreseen this crash:
      I knew a certain Oldsmobile would stop for me even before it slowed, and by the sweet voices of the family inside it I knew we'd have an accident in the storm. 
     I didn't care. They said they'd take me all the way.
Perhaps numb from the drugs, in shock from the crash, or both, the narrator wanders around the scene surveying the damage. It's this point, the aftermath of the action, that I wanted to focus on for the design. The title of the story already says "Car Crash" so I didn't want to reiterate that visually. Besides, his thoughts and reactions are much more interesting. As he passes the other car, where a man is "flung halfway out the passenger door," he describes both the vehicle and dying man with the same detached dispassion. "Moving toward the other car I began to hear rasping, metallic snores." And "He was snoring loudly and rudely. His blood bubbled out of his mouth with every breath." He relays the story of the man, eventually dying on the way to the hospital, very matter-of-factly. When a stopped truck driver asks if everyone is dead, he replies: "I can't tell who is and who isn't." I wanted to show the tire severed and disembodied, like a limb or body part strewn from the crash. I imagined the narrator looking down at a body, and seeing or feeling little more than he would looking down at a broken wheel. I wanted the garish background color to refer to his fried senses. To give the feeling of being so stoned, you can focus on little more than one object at a time. This story is the first thing I had ever read of Johnson's, and it immediately got me hooked. Within the first page, I knew I was going to love these stories.



"Emergency" is a few stories later, and by now the narrator is working in an ER. Possibly in slightly better shape than "Car Crash," he's still strung out on pills, which he gets from his orderly friend Georgie. One night, a man named Terence Weber comes in with a large hunting knife sticking out of his eye. While the ER staff deliberates, Georgie, stoned and guileless, shows up to the parlay after prepping the man, with the knife in his hand. He had apparently removed it himself, without incident. The narrator then begins recounting when he and Georgie (after working two doubles with only eight hours in between) drove to the state fair, got lost, ran over and killed a pregnant mother jack rabbit but saved her babies, and got stranded in a sudden blizzard. I noticed throughout this whole story, how prominent the idea of sight is. Terrence Weber can still see out of the eye that's been stabbed, but his other eye is artificial, and obviously sightless. During the snow storm, the narrator calls out "Georgie, can you see?" To which he replies, "See what? See what?" They happen upon a drive-in theater, mistaking it for a cemetery because the speakers the narrator sees look like crosses at first. "I'm starting to get my eyes back," Georgie says, as the snow dies down. Getting back to Georgie's truck, he suggests they wait to drive home until it's late. With the headlights not working, under cover of darkness "We'll be invisible." After sleeping in the truck, and waking in the morning, the narrator seems to describe what could be a moment of clarity. "I felt the beauty of the morning. I could understand how a drowning man might suddenly feel a deep thirst being quenched." When designing this one, it worked out perfectly to show one of the rabbit's ears as an open eye. But the left ear is an eye too, albeit closed. It refers to one eye having sight, and one eye sightless (Terrence Weber). It can be two different people, one person sightless, and one having suddenly found sight (the narrator's epiphany). And it can represent one person, eyes closed and sightless at first, and then suddenly opening their eyes to something (again, the epiphany, or both characters, during and then after the blizzard).



"Dirty Wedding" immediately follows "Emergency." There is never any explicit note to suggest that these stories are supposed to be in chronological order. But if this story happened after the period described in "Emergency," with it's ambiguous, but seemingly hopeful end, the narrator seems to be back in a dark place, as often happens with addiction. He describes a time in his life when he was around twenty-five or twenty-six, and enjoyed riding the El train around town in Chicago. He has accompanied his girlfriend Michelle to an abortion clinic, but is asked to leave when, after the procedure, he callously asks her "What did they stick up you?" Retreating back to his solace in the train, he happens upon a girl nodding off, and follows her to a hotel where he can score some dope. I wanted to show the narrator as a moody, brooding young man. The shapes in the composition make up the windows, and lights of an El Train, and I wanted to use the destination sign for the title. The train, aside from being the setting for much of the story, is the sanctuary the narrator uses to avoid his responsibilities. He rides it away from the clinic, and the girlfriend he's upset and abandoned, but he admits: "I felt the cancelled life dreaming after me." It also transports him to his latest chance for oblivion, the Savoy Hotel, another sanctuary, and "a bad place" where he can get high, and escape even more. But the way he describes it, it sounds more like hell than a sanctuary. "Monsters were  dragging themselves up the stairs...There was a man with a tall black hat, a helmet of thick blond hair, and a sharp blond beard...Everything down there but the curtain was red." I liked the way the image ended up, with the narrator staring at the black space next to him, an emptiness that he's trying to get away from, but still follows him wherever he goes.



"Steady Hands at Seattle General" is the second-to-last story in Jesus' Son. Keeping with the pattern that I noticed, of the first stories exhibiting a dark bleakness, and the last stories (this one, and to a greater extent, the last story, "Beverly Home") showing more signs of hope and redemption, it differs markedly from "Car Crash" and even "Dirty Wedding." The narrator is now checked into a detox/rehab center. The drugs he's given to combat the withdrawal have him feeling well enough to shave himself, and his roommate, Bill, an older man who's been shot in the face two different times, by two different wives, and still bears the scars. This story is probably the funniest, alongside "Emergency." The narrator asks Bill to describe himself, as he is apparently feeling hopeful enough in his future that he plans to write about this episode.
     "Oh I don't know. I'm a fat piece of shit, I guess."
It's obvious that Bill doesn't share the narrator's more positive outlook. He finishes shaving Bill, and hands him a mirror.
     "What do you see?"
     "How did I get so fat, when I never eat?"
     "Is that all?"
     "Well, I don't know. I just got here."
     "What about your life."
     "Hah! That's a good one."
     "What about your past?"
     "What about it?"
     "When you look back, what do you see?"
     "Wrecked cars."
     "Any people in them?"
     "Yes."
     "Who?"
     "People who are just meat now, man."
The narrator holds up the mirror for Bill to assess his mustache, but it's also for him to evaluate himself on a deeper level. And Bill's cynical reply shows the stark contrast between their outlooks. His life, all his experiences, hopes, and dreams, boil down to nothing more than a series of wrecked cars. And the people he's known? They're nothing more than "meat" now. He's referring to others, but it's clear that's how he sees himself as well. Just a piece of meat, with nothing more to hope for or look forward to than the moment he's thrown into the grinder. The narrator tries to convince him otherwise.
     "Hey. You're doing fine."
     "Talk into here."
     "Talk into your bullet hole?"
     "Talk into my bullet hole. Tell me I'm fine."

As you can hopefully tell from these, I loved the stories in Jesus' Son, and enjoyed working on these immensely. These tales give a glimpse into lives that most of us will never know, without romanticizing. I've read a lot from Denis Johnson since first working on that review piece for The Laughing Monsters. He's one of my favorite authors, and Jesus' Son remains one of my favorite books.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

You can take the boy out of Montana...

I've been meaning to post this for a few days. A recent illustration for the NY Times Book Review, for Boris Fishman's new novel Don't Let My Baby Do Rodeo. The book centers on married couple Maya and Alex, immigrants from Ukraine and Belarus, respectively. Their son Max, who was adopted by the couple as a baby, begins to show strange, animal-like behavior. The three end up on a journey to Montana, Max's birthplace, to seek out the reason for his feral affectations.



Max isn't the only one with persistent bonds to his birthplace. As Cathleen Schine's review explains: "The Russian-speaking Jewish refugees (Maya and Alex, as well as Alex's parents)... have lost the Old Country twice, yet they are never quite free of it." I wanted to highlight the way that people remain connected to their origins. No matter where they end up, there often remains something to tether them to their beginnings. Read the review here, or better yet, get a copy of the book. Thank you to Matt Dorfman, my AD on this one!


Monday, March 21, 2016

Fresh 'n Green!

This half page I did for The Atlantic is out now. It concerns the potential for a deluge of marijuana ads on the scale of beer ads we experience currently, now that many states have legalized it, with many more possibly to follow. The article explains that due to farming advancements, growing the product has become cheaper, and it may soon become a commodity, complete with the marketing schemes of any other commodity.

Living in a state where recreational use is perfectly legal for adults 21 and up, I've already seen some of the products out there. From cheeba chews to sativa sarsaparilla, you can find just about any edible to suit your needs (or the oils and butters to make your own). Just waiting for the Super Bowl commercials to start hocking them...
Here's my issue:


You can read the article here. Thank you to Paul!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Food for thought

I just realized this is my first post of 2016. I've really been slacking at the blogging. Happy, uh, New... eh forget it. This one was for World Wildlife Magazine not too long ago. I just got the issues in the mail, so I figured I'd post while I have a minute. I worked with Pentagram, who art directs/designs the magazine. My piece accompanied an article about a recent simulation game on the future of food (in)security.


The game, called Food Chain Reaction: A Global Security Game, was hosted by WWF, the Center for American Progress, Cargill, and Mars, Inc. Based on the results of the game (which is constructed with real life events around the globe in mind, particularly climate events such as floods, droughts, etc.), future food crises are a very real threat unless people act now to mitigate them. As the article points out: "By 2050, the world's population will approach 10 billion people and the demand for food will double." A scary, scary thought. Whenever I hear about simulation games like this I think of the Eschaton in Infinite Jest. I don't think this game ended with participants beating each other senseless, or anyone's head stuck in a computer monitor, but it did show how dire the situation is.
And here's my issue:


Thank you so much to Carla, DJ, and Sarah!