Miscellaneous

March for Science- Earth Day 2017

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.  ― Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space

This Earth Day, April 22, 2017, scientists, those who support their work, and those concerned about our current government’s disastrous environmental policies will gather in cities and towns worldwide in a march to bring awareness to the state of our planet and what we’re doing to it. I, along with thousands of others, will be marching in downtown Chicago (and doing some sketching).

Here’s the March for Science mission statement as presented on their webpage:

The March for Science champions robustly funded and publicly communicated science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity. We unite as a diverse, nonpartisan group to call for science that upholds the common good and for political leaders and policy makers to enact evidence based policies in the public interest.

Hope everyone I know will be there and/or lend their support in body or spirit.

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Theater of War


Only the dead have seen the end of war.  
~Plato

Administrations, leaders, and civilizations come and go, and through it all, warfare seems to be the one unavoidable constant that afflicts our world. For all our technological advancements, we as a species still just can’t seem to all get along.

This week, with the horrific chemical weapon attacks by Bashar al-Assad in Syria and the nuclear missle tests by Noth Korean madman Kim Jong-Un, we’re reminded yet again how fragile global stability is.

May cooler heads prevail and a saner world lie ahead. Peace.

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LasVegas ConExpo map & VR

This week from March 7-11, the CONEXPO-CON/AGG show is being held at the LasVegas Convention Center. I was asked to create a 3D map for convention visitors. The finished product was a large scale file that could be reproduced large enough to use for signage at the entrance to the show. Along the way, it underwent many changes and iterations depending on the purpose. The challenge was to balance aesthetics with clarity, so ultimately it was simplified from the earlier designs.
The 3D model I built was based on floorplans and images captured from Google Earth, which proved to be invaluable:

ConExpo 2017 wayfinding map

And here’s an an earlier version, which was to include lots of construction equipment rendered at various angles.

Another part of the assignment was to create a 360-degree environment that could be viewed using a Google Cardboard (or similar) viewer. If you aren’t familiar with Google Cardboard, it’s a simple inexpensive virtual reality (VR) platform developed by Google for use with a head mount for a smartphone. While it isn’t as totally immersive as more costly VR headsets like the Oculus Rift, it does give a pretty convincing feeling of being in an environment.

When first given the assignment, I’d never done anything like this before, and online solutions for creating content for Google Cardboard were slim. It took some trial & error, but I finally hit on a way to render out the 3D environment and the client was pleased with the result. If you have access to a Google Cardboard viewer, you can click on the image below to see it in action.


Once I had a workflow, creating another environment for Dipstick Studio, my ideation sketching business, was easy:

This is the second year I’ve done an assignment for the ConExpo show. The previous work can be seen here. Thanks to all the great folks at Slack & Co. for bring me in on this fun job!

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Chicago Field Museum sketchbook

Here in Chicago, we’re lucky to have a wealth of world class museums to visit. Several of them, including the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium, and the Adler Planetarium, are clustered in a group next to Soldier Field known as the “Museum Campus”. As a student, I made numerous trips in from the western suburbs to visit each of them years before I could appreciate what local treasures they are. Fortunately, I’m part of the Urban Sketchers Chicago group, a group open to artists of all backgrounds and training, who are interested in sketching in a live environment, and our regular sketching meetup this month took us to the wonderous Field Museum of Natural History. Here are some of the sketches from that trip:
This one is of a Peregrine Falcon, which has recently been upgraded from “endangered” to “threatened”, thanks to the efforts of wildlife conservationists.

This is a sketch of a Black Hat Dancer’s costume worn by Buddhist monks in the ritual of the Cham dance, which is considered a form of meditation and an offering to the gods.

This is the Field Museum’s most famous resident, Sue, sketched during an earlier visit. She was acquired in 1997 and is, to date, the largest, most complete, and best preserved Tyrannosaurus rex ever discovered.

Here’s a sketch of a pair of fighting African elephants who, along with Sue the T-Rex, are featured prominantly in the main hallway of the museum. These elephants are one of the first specimens displayed by the Field Museum in 1909. Here’s a fun video about the people & taxidermy involved in bringing the pair to life.

And finally, here are a few more miscellaneous sketches of various exhibits throughout the museum.

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The Wind is Coming: Donald Trump’s House of Cards

The Wind is Coming: Donald Trump's House of Cards

The Wind is Coming: Donald Trump’s House of Cards

“Democracy is so overrated.” -Frank Underwood , House of Cards (Season 2, Episode 2)

In a recent New York Times interview with Donald Trump, the subject turned to energy policy, specifically alternative energy solutions. In typical Trump fashion, his response was meandering and full of vagaries. When pressed on a meeting he had with Brexit leaders regarding windmills and how they might detract from the views on his Scottish golf course, he came up with the memorable line, “The wind is a very deceiving thing.” From there he rambled on about how windmills are made in Germany and Japan out of massive amounts of steel that “goes into the atmosphere”(?) and “kill all the birds”.

This is a man to whom we’re entrusting the future of our country and in many ways the world. His decisions will no doubt effect every one of us, whether we live in the US or not, for the next 4-8 years and likely much longer, especially in terms of the environment and Supreme Court appointments. For those who haven’t read the interview and still say we should give the man a chance as we have all previous Presidents, I challenge you to read the interview in its entirety and NOT conclude that Donald Trump is mentally unbalanced and has absolutely no business anywhere near the Oval Office.

Already his cabinet nominees read like a who’s who of corruption, many of whom have expressed opposition and even taken legal action AGAINST the departments they’ll be heading . It’s amazing that the numerous charges of sexual harassment against him and his admitted sexual assault, disturbing as they are, are not even the most worrying of his corruption. Neither are his countless business conflicts of interest, which he’s done nothing to eliminate and stands to profit from BIGLY.

Now Trump and his cronies’ well documented ties to Russia are finally coming to light, conveniently AFTER the election. Whether Trump himself was unaware of the Russian hacking of the DNC emails, he now seems indifferent and even resistant to uncovering the truth. And now, he’s continuing his crusade to discredit all major media outlets and specific reporters who aren’t firmly onboard the Trump train.

In three days, Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States, an event considered unthinkable and I even took part in lampooning just a year ago. And just as surely, some day, either before his term is up or after, the full extent of his corruption will be exposed and his house of cards will come tumbling down.

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2016 review: One bright nugget

2016 sewer Cubs win
OK, so we’ve had better years when looking at the total picture. Beloved celebrity deaths, war, division, contentious elections, etc., etc. But, at least for Chicagoans and even many non-Chicagoans who have never been to Wrigley Field, the 2016 World Series provided a much needed sense of hope & joy. The Cubs are supposed to be as good or better in 2017, but it’s hard to imagine the magic and drama of this year’s World Series can ever be repeated.

May 2017 bring hope, heath, and much happiness to all of us. Best of luck in the New Year!

Summer’s End: Farewell Cicadas & Walnuts

  1. CicadaWalnuts06Fall has definitely arrived to the Chicago area, and with it the end to the summer’s familiar ambient buzzing sound coming from the native cicada. This year’s brood was the annual cicada, which according to Wkipedia, are also known as the dogday cicada or harvestfly, though I’ve never heard them called either. cicadaI’ve taken some artistic license and depicted the orange eyed and wing tipped 17 year cicada (aka. the periodical cicada) who, according to the “Chicago Botanic Garden website”, aren’t expected to emerge until 2024.

As for the walnuts; our next door neighbor’s grand & glorious walnut tree has branches which extend over our fence, towering far above our driveway. Throughout the later summer months, the sound of squirrels cracking open the hard shells can be head clearly and constantly across the back yard. walnutsThe falling nuts striking the metal garbage can lids from 20-30 feet act as a warning gong for anyone passing beneath. They’re fairly substantial and a direct hit on the head could lead to hospitalization or, at the least, a nasty bump.

Like cicadas emergences, walnut tree production can vary greatly from year to year, and may be on an “alternate bearing” schedule, producing nuts one year and reserving their resources the next. As it happens, this was a very bountiful year for our neighbor’s walnut tree, with a sea of green, nearly lime-sized walnuts dotting the rear part of our driveway. Later, those that remain after the squirrels have had their fill take on the familiar wrinkled, brown look of dried walnut shells. As a bonus, I’ve discovered that disabling the electric eye on the garage door results in a powerful nutcracker.

For more info:

“University of Illinois extension: Cicadas in Illinois”

“Morton Arboretum:Black Walnut Tree”

 

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Trump & Putin: Really Into Each Other

RussianDolls“I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.”
-Winston Churchill, 1939

 

What to make of Donald Trump’s relationship (or lack thereof) with Vladimir Putin?

A sampling of Trump’s contradictory quotes only makes things murkier:

Donald Trump last week: “I never met Putin. I don’t know who Putin is.”

Donald Trump in 2013: “I was in Moscow recently and I spoke, indirectly and directly, with President Putin, who could not have been nicer, and we had a tremendous success.”

Donald Trump in 2015: “I got to know (Putin) very well.”

Donald Trump yesterday: “Just so you understand, he said very nice things about me. But I have no relationship with him. I don’t…I’ve never met him. I wouldn’t know him from Adam except I see his picture, and I would know what he looks like.”

And Donald Trump is (just barely) seen as the more “trustworthy” candidate.

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Hillary vs. Bernie- Showdown in New York

Today, Wisconsinites vote in their Democratic and Republican primaries. Until recently, best Hillary Clinton was comfortably ahead in the Wisconsin polls and was hoping to further widen her national delegate lead over Bernie Sanders.

But in the latest polls, Sanders has surged ahead by about 5 points, and is now predicted to win by a little, or maybe a lot, if his upset in Michigan was any indication. Realistically, Bernie Sanders still has a lot of catching up to do if he wants to wrest the Democratic nomination from Hillary Clinton. But no one can deny that the momentum is definitely with the Sanders campaign.

Which brings us to New York.

As elsewhere, Sanders’ New York rallies are drawing thousands of potential voters compared to the hundreds at Clinton’s rallies. Losing the state that twice elected her Senator would be a major blow to the Clinton candidacy and would be a huge game-changer. while he would still trail in the delegate count, there’s no doubt that a Bernie Sanders victory would send a message to the DNC that Sanders isn’t going down easily, and could, just maybe, pull the ultimate upset. His rejection of income inequality and special interest money controlling Washington resonates loudly with voters across all demographics.

As of now, Hillary still holds a single digit advantage over Bernie in the latest New York primary polls, after leading by 20-30 points just weeks ago, but the trajectory is undoubtedly in his favor. Whatever the outcome, New York’s April 19th primary should be a strong indicator of who will be the Democratic nominee come November.

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Donald Trump illustrations for Vanity Fair

Recently, I had the great opportunity to create illustrations for  “A Terrifying Look at Our Eventual Trump Presidency” a satirical article written by Bruce Handy mocking the one and only Donald Trump in his bid for the White House. See more images and the original article here.

The deadline was pretty tight, but there were minimal revisions and lots of leeway for putting my own spin on the captions. Many thanks to Associate Editor Alexandra Beggs and the team at Vanity Fair for bringing me in on this fun project!

Dog Phobias. Case study: Sadie and Ella

Dog PhobiasPhobias are strange things. Most of us have them to some degree. I myself have a pronounced fear of heights. Some call it a phobia, which implies an irrational fear, but I’d call it common sense fear of bodily injury due to falling from a great distance.

Dogs are similar in this regard. But our two girls, Sadie and Ella, couldn’t be more different when it comes to weather conditions for instance. Ella shows a total disregard for thunder and lightning, whereas Sadie goes to her “safe spot” behind our couch and will wait out the duration of the storm, sometimes trembling at an especially loud crack of thunder. She’s gotten a bit better as time goes by, but no amount of petting and soothing talk will completely dispel her fear. And according to canine psychologists, by overcoddling her, I may have only been rewarding and reinforcing her fearful behavior. Oops.

After 13 summers of occasional loud & violent storms without incident, any intelligent animal should realize thunder & lightning are a natural occurance and nothing to fear, right? Then again, lightning strikes DO account for around 50 deaths and 300 injuries on average annually in the U.S. alone, so maybe her fears aren’t totally irrational. Ella, on the other hand, has no qualms whatsoever about going out in the middle of a loud thunderstorm. So who is the smarter dog? The one who blissfully ignores the forces beyond her control? Or the one who spots potential danger and avoids it at all costs?

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Texas: land of the conspiracy theory


Note: This post was started before this past weekend’s disastrous flooding. So far the count stands at 17 dead and 10 missing. I considered holding off on putting it out there, but ultimately decided while we all sympathize with those affected by the deluge, we can still recognize the peculiar character of the state that will still be there long after the water recedes.

The state of Texas has long has a long reputation for marching to its own paranoid beat. So it makes sense that many of the fringiest and most persistent conspiracy theories trace their roots to the Lone Star State. How fitting is it that the granddaddy of all conspiracy theories originated on a Dallas street more than 50 years ago? The brief 8mm footage of the John F. Kennedy assassination taken by Abraham Zapruder has been dissected and analyzed more than any other film in history, healing and the general consensus of the official forensic experts is that Lee Harvey Oswald was the single assassin acting alone. But thanks in large part to Mark Lane’s 1966 book “Rush to Judgment” and Oliver Stone’s “JFK”, terms like “pristine bullet” and “grassy knoll” have become part of everyone’s vocabulary, and a large majority of Americans today believe that there was in fact a conspiracy to kill President Kennedy. Though who exactly was involved is up for debate.

More recently, radio talk show host, blogger, and Texas native Alex Jones has yet to find a conspiracy too outlandish or offensive to broadcast. Some of his greatest hits include theories that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings were faked and the U.S. government was directly tied to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. In a crazy hall-of-mirrors style twist, he himself is the subject of a conspiracy theory now making the rounds which posits that Alex Jones is none other than the alter ego of deceased comedian Bill Hicks (himself a firm believer in the JFK conspiracy theory). It’s pretty amusing to watch the video of Alex Jones accusing the “Alex Jones is Bill Hicks” crowd of being conspiracy theory loons.

Since President Obama has been in office, general distrust of the U.S. government has played a huge role in a number of conspiracy theories, especially when it comes to immigration policy. Starting with the general presumption that minorities tend to vote democratic, it wasn’t long before right-wing GOP politicians in Texas, including Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Louie Gohmert, promoted the idea that Democrats were busing young illegal immigrants across the border en masse who would eventually be allowed to vote, thus keeping them in power.

The latest conspiracy theory making the rounds in Texas and throughout the southwest involves the military operation code-named Jade Helm 15 (http://www.businessinsider.com/jade-helm-conspiracy-theory-2015-5). It’s a real Special Ops training exercise set to take place this summer. What really makes this theory stand out is the surprising degree of legitimacy it’s being given by people of influence. Walker:Texas Ranger himself, Chuck Norris was recently reported to have said that he has serious questions about Obama’s “scheming”. In addition, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has directed the state guard to monitor the operation. Whether he actually believes that the Jade Helm operation is an effort by the U.S. government to impose martial law or is simply pandering to right wing extremists, it’s a pretty defensive reaction to a standard military exercise.

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Inequality and the California Drought

 

A while ago, I was given an assignment to create an illustration for a national conference addressing economic inequality in the U.S. I saw it as a great opportunity, since it’s a vitally important topic and one which I have very strongly feelings about. I was given the main thesis along with some thoughtful initial direction, and and I presented several rough concepts for consideration.

After a number of back and forth iterations, the one that was ultimately decided upon was a simple allegorical image depicting ladders and star-bearing trees as a metaphor for inequality. The thinking was to present the subject as being more about inequality of opportunity and not so much about class conflict. Due to exclusive copyright issues, I’m unable to show the final image, but one of my initial rough sketches, which I used as inspiration for this image, was seen as putting too much emphasis on the “99% vs. the 1%” for this particular assignment.

Now, given the recent headlines about California’s mega-drought, it’s taken on a more literal meaning. Gov. Jerry Brown’s conservation and rationing measures are already being criticized for giving unfair breaks to big business and the oil industry in particular, whose fracking technology uses tremendous amounts of water for an already controversial process. Solutions for now involve conservation and shared sacrifice, and praying for rain. In the long term, growing and engineering crops that require less water, and improved desalination and groundwater drilling techniques may help. Given the fact that nearly half of the nation’s produce is grown in California, it’s a problem that will eventually affect nearly everyone in the U.S., most of all those who can least afford it.

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Warren in the Temple

I must confess, it’s been a while since I attended my last Catholic school religion class (which reminds me, it’s been eons since my last Confession too), but some of the New Testament stories and lessons have stuck with me and still resonate all these years later.

Albrecht Dürer

One that I’ve always found especially thrilling was the single documented incident in which Jesus lost his cool and, in a fit of rage, threw out a group of moneychangers doing business in the temple. The story was always presented to illustrate Jesus’ human side, and as young students, how could we NOT thrill to the story of a badass Jesus brandishing a handy whip and going all Indiana Jones on the greedy heathens, driving them from the temple, yelling, “Do not make my Father’s house a house of trade!” (John 2:13-17).

While for the most part monetary transactions have been banished from the churches (though you’d never know it looking at Joel Osteen Inc.’s megachurch), the same can’t be said of the temples of government, where Wall Street bankers and corporate lobbyists have long been calling the shots in Washington.  Thanks in large part to the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” ruling, unlimited campaign financing has lead to the election of politicians who serve the interest of their corporate donors, not their constituants.

In this environment of decades-long erosion of middle class wages while the accumulated wealth of the top 1% has skyrocketed, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has made a name for herself by calling out the political corruption that has lead to such rampant inequality. Fighting the lonely fight for the middle and working classes, she, along with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, have declared a war of sorts against the overwhelming influence of the megarich on the legislative process.

Belying her stereotypical librarian appearance, she delivers fiery speeches  preaching against Wall Street corruption and its insidious power over US politics and policies. This has lead to a growing grassroots movement for an Elizabeth Warren Presidency not seen since the improbable  and meteoric rise of Barak Obama in 2007.  And it seems the more Sen. Warren flat out declares that she’s NOT running for President in next years election, the more enthusiasm builds for her potential candidacy.

As much as I’d love to see a Warren candidacy, barring a political vacuum in which, for whatever reason, Hillary Clinton decides NOT to seek the Democratic nomination, a 2016 run for President seems to me increasingly unlikely. But we can hope.

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Eyewitnesses’ Strange Encounter with Michael Brown

Shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, <a href=It’s been nearly four months since the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by Ferguson, MO police officer Darren Wilson, and the protests there continue, spreading to other cities across the US. The decision last week to NOT indict officer Wilson on any charges didn’t come as a great surprise to most residents of Ferguson, who have long been distrustful of local law enforcement.

But with all the coverage the 90-second encounter between Brown and Wilson has received, I found one eyewitness account to be especially interesting and, if true, I believe it hasn’t received the media coverage it deserves. It appeared in one article of the St. Louis Dispatch and a brief mention in a CNN video clip weeks ago and, to my knowledge, was never mentioned again, nor was it picked up by other major media outlets.

According to the eyewitness, who along with a coworker was working on a nearby street, Michael Brown was shot at from behind, turned around, and was in the act of surrendering when he was fatally shot by Wilson. The account was notable, not just because the worker had no ties to Michel Brown or the community, but because of the strange encounter his coworker had with Brown shortly before the shooting.

As he tells it, the man (presumably wearing the green shirt in the video) and his coworker were digging up a section of the street when his coworker hit a tree root. His coworker let out a profanity just as Michael Brown happened to be passing by. Here’s where the story gets pretty surreal. As the worker tells it, Brown struck up a conversation with the coworker saying that he had some “bad vibes” but that “the Lord Jesus Christ would help me through that as long as I didn’t get all angry at what I was doing.” Brown said that he had a picture of Jesus hanging on his wall at home, and the coworker joked that the devil had a picture of him on his wall. This conversation is said to have taken place about a half hour before the shooting.

So here we have a young man supposedly carrying on a conversation about religion and morality just moments after (or before? It’s not clear) he allegedly robs a convenience store and is subsequently shot and killed by police. It sounds like something out of an old Russian novel. It should be noted that key parts of the account have been called into question by conservative websites. Rather than dealing with the pre-shooting conversation, they question the motives of the videographer, attack the anonymity of the witnesses, dispute their claims of being 50 ft. away and having clear sight lines, and believe that the clip is taken out of context.

In CNN’s on-air discussion of the video following it’s release, panelist Attorney Mark Geragos called the video a “game changer”. It wasn’t. There was no followup on the part of CNN or the St. Louis Dispatch, and with the grand jury’s decision not to charge Officer Wilson with any crime, the details and veracity of the account will probably never be known.

Comments from all sides are welcome, and will only be moderated for inflammatory content.

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Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween from Dave’s Ink!

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