Having Fun With Draw Something

I am loving the game Draw Something. If you have an iOS device, Android, or are on Facebook, I highly recommend trying it out. It's basically Pictionary, only without the time limit.

What I love most about it is that it's a very easy way to sketch and draw every single day. Sure, the drawing tools are rudimentary, so fine art is not going to happen. But I do try my best to go beyond the ordinary stick figures and single-color drawings. And occasionally, it's fun to render a 10-minute scene and force people like my friend Katie and my wife Andrea to wait until the very end to see the picture.

I never know what the hell is going to come out of me when I start on these. Sometimes, I just have nothing and draw the picture, like "Golf" or "Clock." But occasionally, I get inspired to just go crazy with digital fingerpainting and whip up something fun.

Here are some of my favorites so far:

"HipHop" for Ceara. This was actually my first stab at full-page drawing. I had to crack up at "Beat Street". 

"Concert" for Katie. I think this one is my favorite so far. I love that the band's name is "Band."

"FastFood" for Jeremy. There's a McRib in that bag, you just can't see it.

"Pitfall" for Andrea. My favorite game growing up. I had to do it.

"LongJump" for Melissa. I don't have a clue what possessed me to do this one, but i do love the determined look on my guy's face. And his track suit is enviable. 

"Carpet" for Katie. I took 10 minutes to draw this, starting with the hardwood floor and moving on to the bookshelf full of books, the mirror, the portrait on the wall, and finally the carpet. She had to sit and watch the entire scene being created. I am an asshole.

"Ash" for Katie. Again, I drew the little flecks of ash last. I love picking on Katie. 

"Mario" for Amy. I loved doing this one, even if Mario looks like someone flattened him like a rose petal between the pages of a long-forgotten Bible.

"Insomnia" for Allie. I know this feeling very, very well. 

There are some others that are still in play, and I'll update this post once they've been guessed. My particular favorite: Gandalf.

If you would like to play, hit me up via Facebook or find me via my email address, joe atsign joethepeacock dot com.  I don't go all out every single turn, but if I do, be patient. Hopefully it'll be worth it.


Shit And Die

"But I have to..."

Let's just stop right there. All you HAVE to do in life is shit and die.

Everything else is a choice. Act accordingly.

(You might try to convince me that eating is mandatory, but it's not. If you stop eating you die. But if you do eat, you must shit. And before the bullshit starts, I'll go ahead and say it: YES, IT REALLY IS THIS SIMPLE.)

On Softness

Life demands a certain hardness of us. We experience hardship. We get lied to. We are left disappointed by people who should have done better by us.

As our skin (both the physical kind and our emotional skin) toughens, it becomes less receptive to feeling. This is by design. It's meant to protect you from pain. Less penetrates the outer layer. Fewer things can scar you.

But there is an aspect to hardness that leaves us incomplete. If you lose your ability to feel, you lose your ability to learn new feelings. You can't appreciate new experiences. You can't take in new information by touch or by emotional involvement.

This is why you should allow yourself to be soft whenever you can. Soft feels. Soft absorbs. Soft envelopes and wraps around and holds.

Hard becomes brittle. Sure, hard protects against most attacks, but hard shatters when attacked from an unprotected angle or when hit with enough force.

Soft rebounds. Soft heals. Yes, soft isn't on guard, and there's a greater chance for injury. But there's also no chance of feeling something new unless you allow yourself to remove those defenses which shield you.

And it should be noted that, while sometimes those new feelings are actually painful, there's no way to learn about them and how to handle them without letting them in. That's how we grow. Hard cannot grow and it cannot expand. Nature shows us this as insects and shelled organisms shed their skin to develop further.

Soft is not weak. Soft is stronger than hard, because it takes courage to head into new and unexplored places without armor.

Allow softness. Allow tenderness. Cry. Laugh so hard it hurts. Feel sorrow, pain, humility. They are the only way to know what happiness, bliss and pride feel like, for without contrast, there is no depth.

It may hurt, but it won't kill you. In fact, it just might make you actually feel alive for once.


How To Do What You Love For The Rest Of Your Life

Want to know how to do what you love for the rest of your life? The secret is hidden in this mini-documentary on making video game sounds:

Don't want to sit through the whole thing to find out the secret? Well, here's a cheat code.
The key piece of this video starts at 5:25, where Jeff (the voice talent) begins recording the sounds for a monster in Dead Space 2. He does a few voices, then says the most important thing you will ever hear:

"That's why I say you should do whatever in life that it is you are good at. Your 2nd grade teacher yelling at you for making crazy noises in the back of class? This is why you should actually keep doing it."

He goes on to say more very important things: "There is no well-worn path to a job in game audio, and that can be said about a lot of different disciplines within game production." The guys explain how there is no "Sound Design school" and that everything they do is built on experience, and opportunities are all by chance. They go on to give the best advice ever: Use the skill set you have to find an opportunity to do something that interests you in the realm you're interested in.

It's 100% true. That's how you get to do what you love for the rest of your life. If you sit there in your cubicle or home or mom's basement and spin around in your own head and wonder why life never gives you the opportunity to do what you love, the answer is very simple: it's because you don't love it enough to go make your own opportunity.

Either that, or you don't love yourself enough to give yourself the chance to do so.


Shit Consumers Say

"You have too much time on your hands."

This means: I cannot conceptualize working on things that don't directly pay me an hourly wage, because I bought what was sold to me in public school and am a good worker bee.

"Get a life."

This means: my life sucks and I wish yours did too, because I can't handle that you found something you love and I haven't.

"It's a nice hobby, but you won't make a living at it..."

This means: If I can't figure out a way to make a living at it, you can't either. Give up.


This is the kind of shit I heard my entire teenage and young adult life. This is the language of Consumers. Now, we are all consumers in some form or another, as we all buy things we need. There are a very select few on this earth who make everything they need. But for the vast majority of us, we are buying food, buying soap, and buying clothes.

The difference with a Consumer, however, is THAT'S ALL THEY DO. Their existence is spent consuming. They produce nothing that isn't waste. They work at jobs to buy things. They buy their entertainment. They buy their happiness.

And they want you to be just like them.

There's something about being trapped on the ground that compels people to invent ways to shoot birds out of the sky. They are jealous. They see you working on things of your own design and they judge it, because they themselves are experts in what they will consume. They can't understand that what you do isn't for them.

They have to picture whatever it is you make in a shiny package with lots of Photoshopped logotype and effects because that's what it takes to get their attention. They can't understand the process, and why it is so magical. Because they don't make. They consume and turn whatever they devour into shit.

I used to get combative about it. "Where were YOU when the page was blank?" I'd ask. Now, I just feel sorry for them; for they will never know the magic of making something that doesn't get flushed down a toilet.

One of my favorite quotes of all time by Why The Lucky Stiff says it all:

"When you don't create things, you become defined by your tastes rather than ability. Your tastes only narrow & exclude people. So create."

(A caveat: if you ever intend to sell what you make to them, you'll need to understand them. Just try not to become them in the process.)


Springtime Romance

We've been flirting for weeks. And it's been lovely.

That thrilling rush of the newfound relationship; the warm glows scattered in and among the rest of the cold routine. Caught glimpses of what we both could hope we'd always ever be.

And then this morning, we shared our first kiss, and it set me alight.

Welcome, Springtime. Welcome to my life. I've missed you so.

I ache for the days spent with you. I smile when I think of the time we will spend together; the warmth we will share. The smiles you'll give me, and the thrills I'll fill you with.

Naturally, of course, our relationship will do as all springtime romances do. It will heat until it boils over and we can't stand the sight of one another. I'll dread the mornings that bring you to my doorstep. You'll be oppressively smothering and burn me with your mere presence. I'll beg and plead for relief from your scalding anger, and eventually remember even the coldest, most bitter days fondly, as no matter how frigid they were, they compare favorably to you.

Isn't that something? That I'd rather hold myself and shiver, than suffer you? It's something I can't even comprehend right now. You feel so lovely this morning as your breath lightly blows across my skin. You were gorgeous when I woke up to you this morning.

And I will miss you when I go to sleep. But there you'll be tomorrow, ready to receive me with open arms. And I will hug you back and take you in, trying my hardest to ignore the signs of the impending.

Because while I love you in your youth, Springtime... When you mature into Summer, you become a fucking bitch.


You're Goddamn Right I Judge People (And You Do, Too)

I judge the SHIT out of people. You do too. We all do. Anyone who says otherwise is telling the second biggest lie in human history (the first being "I don't lie").

Yesterday, I posted a picture to Facebook of a pseudo Suicide Girl covered in tattoos that, with the notable exception of whatever the fuck is written on her belly, come right off the wall of just about any tattoo parlor you walk into:

My commentary was "Some guys see a hot girl; all I see is a wall full of flash tattoos and a complete lack of imagination (not to mention the physical embodiment of the need to fit in)." She's a decent-enough looking girl from a physical perspective. But she chose to go and make a bunch of generic crap a permanent part of her body, and I made a judgement of her based on what I saw.

And of course, this invited all kinds of responses, both in agreement and disagreement. Some folks think she's hot (as I postulated in my post). Some people think she's a whore. Some folks like her hair, and some folks think the tattoos are drawn on (just a note on that -- I challenge you to attempt a gradient with a Sharpie). But a common thread in the discourse was this horseshit mentality that I shouldn't judge this poor, poor girl who has posted nearly naked photos of shitty-tattoo-covered self on the internet. After all, I don't know her. How do I have the right to say anything about her?

Because she's out there of her own free will, and I'm an intelligent being capable of inferring from visible signs the base nature of things, that's how.

Judging things based on how they look is an instinct. We all have it. To put it simply, I don't need to sit and have a conversation over coffee with a tiger to recognize from the fangs, the eyes, the pacing and the drooling that it's going to maul the shit out of me. The same applies to human beings. Don't want to be read? Don't put up signs.

Now, some judgements are just plain stupid to have. Judging individuals based on gender or race is the province of neanderthals, and discriminating based on such factors is the act of a weak and pathetic person incapable of coexisting with people who are different from themselves. Racism and bigotry are not what I'm defending here.

What I AM saying is that we as human beings are predisposed to process information and make judgements based on it. It's part of our core programming. This goes from seeing smoke and yelling "Fire!" to seeing a guy in a cowboy hat, Western-patterend shirt, blue jeans and cowboy boots with a huge silver belt buckle and inferring from that information that he probably likes country music.

This chick has unnaturally red hair, fake hipster glasses, and a body covered in simplistic permanent tattoos. What do YOU infer from that?

Turnabout is fair play, of course. I have Japanese cartoon characters and comic book icons all over me. I get judged for it daily. I don't care. I like it, it's on me, and everyone in the world who doesn't like it can go get fucked.

And she has the right to think the exact same thing about me. You all do. That's what life is. It's a systematic process of meeting, judging, and then either writing off or bonding with people. To pretend otherwise is a lie, and you're full of shit when you try to pass yourself off as some enlightened being who blessed us all by coming down from your mountaintop monastery to share with us your notion of universal acceptance.

If I saw this girl at a Starbucks somewhere minding her own business, I wouldn't go up to her and say "Hey, you're an attention whore with bad taste." That's called being an asshole. But that's not what this is. She took off her clothes and posed all sultry-like for the photo, then posted it up on the Internet on an "alternative model" site for the world to ogle. She invited judgement. I'm certain that her intent wasn't to be called on her shitty flash tattoos, but hey, that's part of the deal.

And again, it's the same deal I sign every single day I post anything on the internet that I write, make, say or do. I know the score. I am subject to criticism merely by virtue of the fact that I went and did something in public. Of course, that doesn't mean I will sit idly by and just take nonsense up the ass. If you say something stupid or ill-informed or hate-filled, expect an earful back.

As a response to my post, someone posted one of those "Oh look, I'm clever cause I did a typographic treatment of a pithy saying and turned it into an image macro" things that are so unfortunately popular these days:

It sure does. And my definition of myself is "right." And you're no different.

Life would be so much simpler if everyone would just drop this ridiculous act of pretending we aren't actually human beings.


Adults Reading "Young Adult" Literature -- An Observation

First, let me start with the ending: I don't hate Young Adult literature. Far from it. I think it's fantastic when an author can write in a way that ignites the imagination of young people and relates to them in a way they connect with. I love when a talented storyteller turns a young reader -- who is in flux with their interests and are inundated with video games and television and YouTube clips of cats and several hundred thousand horrible versions of Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" -- toward the worlds that can only be built in the mind through a well-crafted sentence.

I think it's sad, however, when a person stops there and doesn't mature in their tastes. And that's why it saddens me to see so many adults whose reading lists consist almost solely of Young Adult literature. And it saddens me even more that so many authors are rushing to the bottom to appeal to the lowest common denominator of reader.

Yes, I read Young Adult literature. I LOVED Harry Potter. I was a very late comer to the series. I only recently finished watching the films (which wouldn't have happened if my friend Katie didn't nearly threaten gun-related violence if Andrea and I didn't). I loved them so much that I read the books. I thoroughly enjoyed the world that J. K. Rowling crafted. I adored the characters. I nearly cried at times while reading them.

But those tears weren't from the narrative, or the events that transpired in the storyline. It was my joy at how much wonder and delight and confidence and strength this story was brining to millions of children. Literally, I wept at how powerful this entire narrative was to the social fabric of our future society.

But for me, it was merely a visit to Young Adult Literature Land. I do that from time to time -- sometimes to investigate what it is that's turning young readers on these days, and sometimes to relate to my nephews and niece a little better. In fact, I just finished The Hunger Games because I wanted to see what the fuss was about. It's quite good. I can see the appeal. I'll eventually read the rest of them at some point.

It's a simple read. It's meant to be. And sometimes, I like a simple read. Sometimes.

But there is a growing awareness (at least for me) that Young Adult literature is becoming the dominant genre in American reading culture these days. And for me, this brings to light a theory I've long had, but is now being proven out in a way that didn't quite show itself to me early on.

I think our culture's development in terms of sophistication of content gets arrested somewhere around age 17. It's like we have about 5 years to determine what we like -- from that formative age of 12, when we start paying attention to music and movies and books and seeing what turns us on and what we flat out don't like, until we're on our way out of our forced social dynamic of high school and we're becoming either completely unaffected by what our peers think we should like or we're 100% beholden to that notion for the rest of our lives -- and then it's all locked in from there.

This is, of course, a blanket statement describing the majority of what I've observed, especially on Amazon bestseller lists and Bookscan. The point is that people, by and large, stop expanding at some point in their lives. This is true, and always has been. But these days, it feels more and more like that expansion stops earlier and earlier in our development as people.

Some people might argue that comic books are the same thing. By this, they mean the blanket genre of comics. This is as stupid as saying that people who read books -- any books -- fall into this category. Comics are not, as a format, children's literature, or Young Adult literature, or adult literature. They're a form of storytelling. Sequential narrative and graphic novels are as varied in style and content as books, magazines, movies and television shows. To lump the entire format into "kids stuff" is my first and only sign that you are not someone I ever need to wonder is capable of an intelligent conversation, and I turn you off immediately.

That said, superhero comics, by and large, do fall into this category. And I know plenty of intelligent adults who read superhero comics exclusively, and I have the exact same critique of them.

When you stop expanding your mind, you place walls around what you're willing to understand. This goes for anything whatsoever, including emotional exploration. Young adult literature is, by its very definition, intended for those in the midst of maturing. It's (supposed to be) written such that emotionally unmature individuals can bond and relate to archetypes of characters and follow their development in terms that relate to their lack of worldly experience. It simplifies the complex. It strips the nuance from the mosaic and brings to them a message which doesn't require much in the way of contemplation to comprehend.

If this turns you on, yay. Good for you. I don't hate you. I don't think you're "part of the problem." I just think it's sad, is all.

And yes, I absolutely do believe the inevitable conclusion of this is going to be "Ow, My Balls" being the #1 show on television:

As I said in the beginning, I don't hate Young Adult literature. I don't hate people who read Young Adult literature. I don't hate people who read exclusively Young Adult literature. I just don't find much in the way of interest in exploring anything of any depth with these people, because for the most part, there's just not any depth there. And if I want to skim the surface, I can do that with my nieces and nephews -- at least they don't get all pissy and insist that they understand topics they truly don't, just by virtue of reading the exact same take on that topic over and over in their adulthood (and by the way, I have the exact same critique of members of any political party, Hitchens Atheists, and Ayn Rand fans).

Read something that challenges your understanding of what you think you understand. Give yourself the opportunity of discovering you may be wrong. Stop putting yourself in cages when it comes to emotional or intellectual growth. Go somewhere different in your heart and your mind. This applies to those who refuse to read Young Adult literature and only read (or claim to read) instructional books, nonfiction, or even just the dictionary every day. You should try some Young Adult literature once in a while. Free your mind from now and go back to a time and place where wonder and discovery and "new" are encouraged. Fall in love with a character because he's strong or she's smart, and that's all. Like taking a dip in a cool pool in the summer, it's nice to just strip down and plunge in and float for a while. 

But as nice as the pool is, you really shouldn't live there (for one thing, your skin gets all pruny). And that's what this Young Adult literature fascination is for some people. They're so enamored with the pool that they would move away from any place that has a winter, just so they can stay in there forever. They never explore. They never go anywhere new or remotely dangerous. Sticking with the metaphor, this means they'll never explore the snow and discover the joy of skiing or tobogganing or see a Caribou or smell the crisp Autumn air, because they're floating in the pool of Young Adult literature all day. 

Because it's easy. Because it's safe. It's what they know. And they only stick to what they know, which by default means they won't know anything new. 

And that's sad. 

(Incidentally, I'd like to point out that I never once brought up Twilight. This is because Twilight isn't Young Adult Literature. It's not literature at all. It's masturbation material for unsatisfied housewives [and future housewives])


Conquering Yourself

I was laying in bed, considering just how nice it would feel to roll over and go back to sleep. I began to feel my thoughts drift from how nice more sleep would be, into that lucid conversation one has with oneself as their mind fades into sleep.

I mentally shook myself, sat upright, and got up. My legs felt like lead weights hanging from threads, but still I stood.

I sat at the kitchen island and spooned the last bite of Raisin Bran into my mouth, when I felt an urge to match upstairs, plop on the couch, turn on the Xbox and lose myself on Mass Effect 3. "I'm on target with work. I deserve a lazy day."

I started walking up the stairs and had to decide - turn right at top and go to the game room, or straight to the bedroom and get dressed out for the gym. I actually paused and had to think about it.

I went into the bedroom and into the closet, dressed, and exited -- and when I did, I saw my bed. My warm, comfortable bed. My nest. My escape from the day. "I could fall right back I to it. No one will know. No one will care."

I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and left the room. I got into my truck.

"GameStop is just down the road. Plus, you have grocery shopping to do. That's a day's effort. Do that, go home. Play games."

I drove past GameStop. I drove past the grocery store. I headed to the gym.

On the way there, I got into a phone conversation with my friend John Tyler Christopher about comics and illustration and gaming and eventually to our mutual love of Tekken. He invited me to join him in a lounge game with our studiomate Dexter Vines. I was sitting in the parking lot of my gym. In the parking lot. So close. Almost there.

I turned around and began to leave. All day Tekken fest with my buddies? How can I resist?

I got to the exit of the parking lot. I shook my head. I turned around.

"I'll have to join you later," I said.

This is my day, every day. It's the gym. It's work. It's writing. It's designing Fark. It's going to drawing class.

Every single day, the struggle is in my head. It was when I was going to school, but I had parents to force me. It was when I was working for companies, but I had bosses to answer to and debt to pay off. it was when I was playing football, but I had coaches to respect.

Now that work and fitness are a decision and not a necessity, that voice in my head is even louder. And that's why I don't answer it. I don't argue with it. If I try to defeat it with words, it will win every time, because it knows exactly what to say to get me to agree. It's the greatest con job in the history of mankind: the ego, that thing inside you which aims solely to satisfy and protect itself, has convinced you that it IS you.

The only way to defeat it is action. You can't play the game by the rules, because the game is rigged. You have to change the game.

And In my case -- and I suspect yours as well -- it's a daily battle. Sometimes, it's even hourly.

If ever you hear a voice in your head which tells you you cannot, by all means, do. That voice will be silenced.


Generate Your Own Warmth

Love yourself.

I've said it many times. You've heard it many times. But I think that Elizabeth Gilbert says it better than I've ever heard, and definitely better than I ever could:

The only way to truly love other people in your life is to love yourself first. Otherwise, your relationships are nothing more than attempts to validate yourself through the feelings of others.

There's a massive difference between wanting to be with someone and needing to be with them. Stop needing, and you'll suddenly discover what it is you actually want. Not only that, you'll finally be free to pursue it. 


"First World Problems"

I just got back from the Apple Store, a modern First World retailer of modern First World technology. The store is situated in a well-to-do, modern First World mall in Atlanta, a modern First World city. While at the Apple Store, I bought a modern First World Thunderbolt-connected external hard drive. I was setting it up on a modern First World clip-on aluminum shelf that fastens to the back of my modern First World Apple Thunderbolt display, when I realized something very, very annoying. See if you can spot it:

It doesn't come with a Thunderbolt cable. It's a $500 Thunderbolt drive, and it doesn't come with a Thunderbolt cable. Not "accidentally left out" -- flat out not included. It's not listed in the box contents.

This annoyed me. So, I felt I would share this very frustrating fact on Facebook and Twitter. Now, I have no idea WHY it wasn't something I anticipated; I suppose my radar just isn't tuned in to "old played out cynical bullshit humor from two years ago", but I was frustrated to see people commenting on my frustration with the pathetic, overplayed statement expressing that my issue was a "First World Problem."

The term "First World Problem" bothers the shit out of me. Who gives a fuck what kind of problem it is? It's a problem, period point-blank. Am I supposed to be thankful that I have food and a roof over my head, and just sigh and go "This $500 drive is worthless now, but eh, what do you do?" and shrug my shoulders and whistle a tune while I thank the Lord Baby Jesus for writing the American Constitution with his own hands, providing me the chance to live in this, the land of opportunity?

Seriously, all of you, please read this slowly, because I want it sink in. And I mean really, really sink in. I want it to strike a chord within you to the point that you fully understand what I'm trying to convey:

Fuck. You. 

True, we have achieved a base level of expected comfort here in our First World. True, there are countries where children are starving and people don't live in nice homes and there are wars. 

None of that changes the fact that my drive didn't come with the very specific cable it needs to function. It's annoying. I vented. There's no need to remind me how lucky I am that I have food and water. I know these things -- I bought the fucking drive right after I had lunch and a beer. 

You're not clever when you say things like this. You're not even a dick. You're a douche. Dicks are people with the audacity to say something either inappropriately hilarious, or tell the truth in a time where truth isn't exactly welcome, just to irk the other person.

You? You're a douche, because douches are pathetic. You're not only trying to use cynicism to portray wisdom (which is always sad), you're doing it with 2+ year old humor. 

Relate to my situation or don't, but don't attempt to look clever and funny and above all things by reminding me how great I have it. I know exactly how fucking great I have it. I can afford a $500 Thunderbolt hard drive, connected to a computer that itself is connected to a massive worldwide network where I can broadcast, from the comfort of my air conditioned office, the fact that the $500 First World drive I just bought with my First World money for my First World computer DOESN'T FUCKING COME WITH THE FIRST WORLD CABLE IT NEEDS TO ACTUALLY FUNCTION.

I'm not even going to tell you to shut up. I don't want you to shut up. I actually like keeping count of just how many people I no longer need to bother with wondering if they're capable of higher thought and enjoyable conversation. I just wish you'd make stronger attempts at humor (or, at the very least, use humor from this year). 


Break The Cycle

Hate your job? Quit.

Tired of being treated like shit by the guy you're dating? Leave.

Sick of being put down by your family? Tell them your limits and stick to them.

It's not the world's responsibility to make you happy. It's not up to others to read your mind. No one is going to walk through the door and suddenly give you permission to be happy. They're YOUR legs. Walk away. They're YOUR hands. Put them to work. It's YOUR life. Live it. 

Or shut the fuck up. 

It's your choice.


How Stealing A Playstation Gave Me A Career (And Why I Love The Designer's Republic)

The other day, I experienced a joy I've not felt in years. It was the joy of finding a treasure long sought after. This particular treasure is one I've been searching for since I found out it existed; around 1998 or so. And you might think it's silly, but it's something that means a lot to me to have.

It's a Swatch watch designed by The Designer's Republic, and it looks like this:

You may never have heard of The Designer's Republic. It's okay if you haven't. Knowing who they are is even more insidery know-it-all than a music geek knowing it was The Melvins who influenced Nirvana back in the 90s, or film nerds knowing that Sam Peckinpah is who Quentin Tarantino stole all his best stuff from. This article by CR Blog is an excellent history and summary of just how impactful and legendary The Designers Republic was (and still is).

The Designer's Republic made me want to be a designer. Every single thing about them made me happy. Their mottos (Work Buy Consume Die and Talent Borrows, Genius Steals), their irreverence, the fact that they were located North of Nowhere... They were so anti-establishment by stealing everything from the establishment. Logos, sayings, ideas, layouts, designs... They collected these aspects of our culture and threw them right back into the faces of the companies they designed for, and they got paid heaps of cash for the privilege.

I collect EVERYTHING from this company. Books, magazines, brochures, prints -- for a while, I even had the packing tape and envelope from one of their shipments hanging on my wall. I have a menu from Moshi Moshi Sushi at Canary Wharf in England, a store they designed. I bought an ABIO robotic dog just because TdR designed the packaging. I have the press docket from Quito, Ecuador's public relations design relaunch. I own every single album whose cover they designed and every single game they had a hand in producing (in fact, it was loving The Designer's Republic that made me interested in the first Grand Theft Auto).

Products produced by TdR themselves are highly collectable. Their special edition of Emigre Magazine (#29) fetches upwards of $2000 on auction -- if it ever appears. In fact, the Museum of Modern Art in New York bought a copy for their archives. Their books (TDR Vs. IDEA magazine - Special Projects and 3D > 2D) are limited editions numbering in the low thousands, and routinely fetch about that much if they're found. The watch pictured above, I've never actually seen for sale anywhere. I've only seen a finished auction on eBay in 2004 where it went for over a thousand dollars (until now! I finally have one coming!!)

So how did I come to love this company and all things associated with them, which turned me on to a love for design that paved the path of my entire career? Through a little ingenuity, a good bit of larceny, a Sony Playstation and a game called Wipeout.

*     *     *

My family never really had much in the way of money, but during my last few years in high school, we were, by all accounts, poor. By the time I graduated high school, I was working a decent part time schedule during weekends, and the day I graduated, I picked up a second and then a third job to make ends meet.

During the small stint I spent in college (about 6 months, from the fall of 1995 until mid-spring 1996), I was working two jobs to keep the bills paid and food in my mouth. But there was this buzz about this new gaming console, the Sony Playstation. It was becoming obvious that Sony hadn't released another Atari Jaguar or Turbografix 16 -- this console was serious business. And I wanted it.

But I had no money. At least, I didn't have the $300 for the console, plus $60 per game. But I wanted it. And something that was true about me even then -- when I want something, I figure out ways to make it happen. I budgeted what I could each week to afford it; alas, car troubles and varying needs always robbed me of my Playstation fund. But fate, it seemed, wanted me to have this glorious new console.

It was a chance encounter with a clearance sticker in the game aisle at Toys-R-Us which provided me with the means to get what I wanted with minimal financial investment. I had just finished my stint on the Playstation demo unit, beating all comers in Tekken, when I decided to look at the Super Nintendo games on sale to scratch my itch for something new to play, even if it wasn't in glorious 32-bit. I happened to see that Super Metroid was on sale for an insane $19.95.

I already had Super Metroid. In fact, I beat it once a month from the day I traded a few comic books for it. However, it occurred to me that this game was still full price at Wal-Mart for $49.99. And I remembered seeing Romance of the Three Kingdoms II (which I had absolutely no interest in playing) was on sale at Wal-Mart for $14.98, while it was still an insane $79.99 at Toys-R-Us.

A lightbulb went on in my head. There's no way that'll work, I told myself. But I couldn't resist. I had to try. I bought a copy of Super Metroid and immediately went to Wal-Mart (the one I would eventually work at that fall with disastrously hilarious results). I walked up to the return counter and, without saying a word, handed the clerk the game. With all the enthusiasm of a drowsy elephant, she blandly went through the process of "returning" the game. She asked me if I wanted store credit, or if there was something I wanted to get instead.

I was nervous. It was working. I gestured back toward the store. She waved me off, and I went and picked up three copies of Romance of the Three Kingdoms II. The entire time I was doing this, I was filled with dread. They're going to cancel this transaction and throw me out. The gig is up. There's no way I'm walking out of here with three copies of this game.

Alas, I did -- and pocketed the difference in cash.

I got in the car, cranked the engine, and sat in the parking lot for about twenty minutes. Not only did I end up with three games, I was almost fully paid back my initial investment of twentyish bucks (after tax). But now came the hard part -- getting store credit for three games that, if I was stuck with them, I would never play -- and even if I liked it, I certainly wouldn't play three individual copies of it.

I knew that if I tried to return all three to the same store, they'd suspect something. So I drove to the north side of Atlanta and visited three separate Toys-R-Us stores. As I walked into each one, I thought about how impossible it was that this was actually working -- and yet, it did. After about two hours, I ended up with a little over $240 in Geoffrey Dollars (the Toys-R-Us version of store credit).

You would think that this is where the "but then" part of the story came into play; where I tell you how I got greedy and ended up screwing myself out of a good thing. But no. I spent the weekend pulling the exact same con over and over until I had a little over a thousand bucks in Geoffrey Dollars. And over the years, I've tried my best to justify this and call it "creative purchasing" or "using the system" or whatever, but no. It was theft. I can admit that now.

I bought myself a Playstation, every game that was out at the time, an extra controller and a few of the new Star Wars toys that had just been released (and I ended up pulling the exact same con a few weekends in a row, amassing a few hundred bucks in store credit in just about every store that sold video games around the metro area). It was a glorious thing. I played Tekken until my eyes bled. I mastered Battle Arena Toshenden. I conquered Ridge Racer. And all of that was in the first week I had the thing. It was a little bit before I finally popped in this wild looking game called Wipeout. But when I did, my life changed forever.

From the opening sequence, this game captivated me. In the intro was this screen with a logo reading "I Love My DR" which said there was graphic design by The Designer's Republic:

(Can't see the video? Click here)

There was this techno music playing that didn't suck. The menu system was unlike anything I'd ever seen before. The loading screens were a pleasure to look at. The action was fast-paced. And for the first time in my entire life, I was actually paying attention to the design of the backgrounds. There were electronic billboards advertising this thing called Red Bull (which I would become utterly addicted to by 1997, when I finally found some during a trip to Vancouver, BC -- I had always thought it was just a made-up thing, but no, it was real and it was GLORIOUS).

I read through the manual. There were these really beautiful logos for each racing team, which had their own identities. It wasn't like F-Zero, where you were presented with a driver you were supposed to like and follow. These were full-on futuristic racing teams with their own corporate backing and identity. But it was the manual itself that blew my mind. The layout was... Different. It had a metallic ink that shimmered but didn't reflect light. It had all these weird logos all over it, and throughout were all these sleek lines and arrows. And all over the thing was this entity called The Designer's Republic.

For a while, I thought it was just part of the fiction. I thought it was the name of this future design firm that did all of the identities for the racing teams, which was invented by the game designers. But then, I played the game Loaded, which featured this song by a group called Pop Will Eat Itself:

(Can't see the video? Click here)

I adored this song, and sought out the album (along with every other record this group released). When I found it at the used CD store, I flipped through the CD sleeve, and lo and behold, there were all these little strange logos and sayings, and "The Designer's Republic" all over the thing. I became obsessed. I started hitting up the web, researching this firm. They were real, and they were everywhere.

What I saw from them was mind blowing. I saw full-blown logo proofs other houses would do for companies, but these guys did for just about whatever came into their brains. I saw color comp sheets. I saw creative briefs. And these things, traditionally used in presentation, were actually part of their designs and identities they built and distributed.

(click any of the images below for high resolution versions)

This was my first real understanding of design: That you could build an identity for yourself by building identities for companies. I didn't know it at the time, but that understanding was the missing piece of my puzzle. I'd been experimenting with HTML since it was a thing, but all it really did for me was give me a place to collect my love for the bands I liked and the stuff I was into at the time. But with this concept of designing things, I began building website concepts for fictions companies -- the major one being an entity I named after a stamp my art teacher used on work she felt was phoned in and without heart, reading "This Is Not Art" -- which, in 2004, became the name of my company.

Fast-forward a few months, to the fall of 1996. I had found out that Georgia State was disbanding the wrestling team to free up finances to build up the basketball program, giving me absolutely no incentive to get back into college and finish my degree. I was fired from Wal-Mart, so I had some free time on my hands to look for another job, which I desperately needed to keep the rent paid.

I began looking at want ads for jobs that weren't in food service or retail, and saw an ad looking for a "webmaster." It required an understanding of HTML and a background in graphic design. I had the first but lacked the second -- but with the hasty-yet-passionate education that The Designer's Republic gave me just by virtue of the fact that they existed, I managed to build up a portfolio of websites for companies that didn't actually exist that rivaled or beat my competition. I got the job, and the rest is history.

Design is a powerful thing when done right. Jonathan Ive has proved that with the iMac, titanium and aluminum PowerBook G4, PowerMac G4, PowerMac G5, G4 Cube, iBook, Mac Pro, MacBook, unibody MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, iPod, iPod Touch, iPhone, and iPad. Dieter Rams proved it with just about everything he designed for Braun. Even if you're not interested in being a designer, you should read The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman -- in it, he explains how design concepts as simple as road signs, exit doors and bathroom logos affect our every day lives.

I don't think I've ever brought to the table a single design that changed the world. I don't think I've even truly affected anyone's life with something I've designed. But I've enjoyed every second of the process of figuring things out, dissecting them, and presenting them in a way that allows people to take them in and use them effectively. I would say that it's my passion for design and functionality that produces my particular style of writing.

And it all started with a little bit of theft. But, as The Designer's Republic said when they stole the quote from Oscar Wilde:

"Talent borrows. Genius steals. Shit copies."


You Can't Love Who They're Going To Be

I have a very close friend who is experiencing girl troubles. These aren't new girl troubles. These girl troubles have been the same girl troubles for nearly a year now. I don't mind talking about these girl troubles with him. God knows he's heard enough of my troubles to fill a book... Or three of them. And more.

It's probably a really familiar situation if you've ever, you know... Known anyone who has ever been in a relationship ever. It goes something like this:

  • The two are incompatible, but "love" each other
  • One does something to set the other off (in this instance, she took a very long time to decide on a menu item at a restaurant, he rolled his eyes, but caught it before it was a full eye-roll. She caught it anyway, and they fought and didn't speak for several days).
  • They try to talk it out, but end up fighting more
  • They agree to just let it go
  • They realize they are incompatible, but "love" each other

I don't lie when I give people advice. I won't remove the truth from the equation just to make them feel better. I am honest and direct, and I have told him several times that they are incompatible. "But I love her," he will reply, adding on that perennial super mega favorite of unhappy people in relationships, "I can change her."

I sigh. He hears it. He knows what's next. I explain to him that no one can change anyone else. People can decide to change for the sake of another person, but you can't MAKE them. All of the changing I've ever done in my life (and believe me, it's a lot) has always been my own decision. I've sometimes thought that someone made me change, but no. No one can make you change. If you change, it's because you decided to.

He explained that, yes, right now they're incompatible, "If she could just be the person I know she can be..."

Then, during this particular conversation, something came out of me that really hit me hard. It's something I've always known, but have never put into words, and it's something I wanted to share with you.

I told him "You cannot love what she will or might be. You can only love what she is. Love with conditions isn't love. So the question is, do you love her?"

I haven't heard a reply.

But I will tell you it put into perspective quite a number of decisions I've made in my life, and have yet to make. This applies to everything -- marriage, dating, friendships, jobs, careers, missions...

If you don't love what it is right now, you don't love it. To claim otherwise is either a lie or a delusion.

So the question you have to ask yourself in this situation is really "How long am I going to trade long term misery for periodic, short term happiness?"

Or, more directly, "How long am I going to keep wasting my time hoping the situation adjusts to my desires, instead of finding a better situation?"

If you love someone, you encourage them to be the best they can be and to be happy and to aspire to greatness. But you don't wait until they become those things to love them. That's not love. The same thing goes for your job -- if you're miserable, but keep holding out for "but maybe it'll get better" you don't love your job. You love your aspiration. You love your dream. You love your imagination.

In other words, you're delusional -- likely as a self-defense tactic to justify the pain of being in a situation you hate.

When you realize reality disagrees with your perception, you have one of two choices: accept it and change yourself or your surroundings, or attempt to bend the whole of reality including the wills, desires, thoughts and actions of other people, to meet your needs.

The second isn't impossible, of course. But I will say that entire nations have fallen and millions, if not billions, of people have died because someone decided to do the second thing -- and throughout history, none of them have ever gotten what they wanted. Even Alexander wept when there were no more worlds to conquer. I'm pretty sure your attempts to climb the corporate ladder at your job so you won't hate it will probably suffer no better fate.

However, everyone -- every single person -- I've ever met who has done the first has been happier and better for it.

If you're in love with what could be, by definition, you are not in love with what is. Decide if you'd rather be lazy or happy and act accordingly.