State of the Union?

Embiggen the Dom-age


Project play-by-play

Talk about a gap between lagers! This project’s been wedged in the launch chute since April. Then it somehow snuck out the back door and promptly fell straight into that great tourist landmark: The Loss of Motivation Suckhole.

Slurp spaghetti sound.

Stalled. Complete brain freeze. No work for the winning of the bread left stress turned on, bullhorned and blaring. Almost too much time on my hands, plus a book to be busily not work on. Things got worse. And then they got better. Sort of. Time to stop the rot.

I sat down at my desk last Sunday and opened up Illustrator and Photoshop. And then, with the steady rain throwing its fat body against my window, I examined the idea I’d scrawled in my notebook all those months ago. I thought about the tweet.

And then I made something completely different.

Thinky time

I have a distinct memory of watching the State of the Union address this year. Sadly, not because of what was said. Nope, it was for the motion on the ocean. And by ocean, I mean the House of Reps floor and by motion I mean the standy-up, sitty-downedness of the whole event.

Presidential Karate chop on both our houses!

Picture me, slobbed out on my couch watching as the big kids in their big boy pants or lady pantsuits, hair spit-combed or bouffanted (sorry, I seem to have stepped in a puddle of political stereotypes), pretended to enjoy sitting in close orbit. They’d crossed aisles and asked each other to the prom and now, now they were actually there and trying not to touch each other’s sweaty palms. Teeth, white as, you know, something really really white, sparkled in their mouths and screamed solidarity. But not in that Lech Walesa kind of way. More in a ‘if congress was an iPhone this would be one of its gestures.’

Still, it was a nice gesture in light of the Arizona shooting. And hey, maybe a little discomfort and nervousness and lingering in the funk of an opponent’s platform would be a good thing, right? Make some of those stiffs remember what it’s like to be human. What it’s like to work with each other and be able to utter the bi-word, but the one that doesn’t get them into a discusion on sexuality. Bi-partisan. Like it in both houses. Blah blah.

Anyway, Obama starts. I pretend to be intelligent. He says some stuff and the house dances the repeating ovation dance. The up down. Yay! Sit down. OMG, do I have to get up again!? Yay, what he said! Fist bump. Sit down. Stand up.

And day’s later, when I went to write down some ideas, that’s the only thing I remembered about it.

Which is why, I guess, my first idea scribblings went to the ancient science of sitting. And standing. And sitting. Bums in seats. Chairs. Straight to chairs. This one’s gonna be easy.

    - Find a bunch of chairs.
    - Illustrate each one side on.
    - Have some congressmen sitting, some standing.
    - Done.

After I woke up from the boredom of that idea, I considered maybe doing my first video project? Self-shot. Find a chair. Shoot me sitting. Standing. Make an animated gif. Oh, the hilarity (for two seconds), then drag it to the trash and give myself a good talking to.

If these keeps up, I’ll have to drown myself in a boredom bath. Perhaps it’s the start of a video? That thought got a bit more juice later while walking to the subway when, with my headphones jammed in tight and my music on shuffle, I was served a delectable little number by Radiohead called “Sit down. Stand up. (Snakes and Ladders).” OMG! This is perfect!

That ladies and gentlefolk, is called see-say. Or hear-say really. A total heresy? Whatever, I will not tolerate that on my ship! Ejected the core from Brain to avert a meltdown.

That left a little vacuum for other thoughts to jot down.

What if I did something with the chairs? What if I found a line from the transcript that resonated in some meaningful way and I built that line in chair-type?

Or…

What if I went back to that video idea but I had some puppets or mariontetes getting up from chairs and sitting back down, symbolizing….? Not much actually. They’re not the puppets, we are. They’re the muppets.

What if? What if?

What if I came up with a good idea once in a while?

Ah, screw it. In the end, I settled on finding a phrase and building it typographically out of chairs. The kind of thing I could knock out super fast and bash my hands together in a ‘well, that’s done with’ fashion. Don’t dwell and all that.

A phrase jumped out at me immediately and fit perfectly.

“We are also mindful of the empty chair in this chamber.”

He said it in reference to Gabby Giffords. And there’s an empty chair. Standing up and sitting down. It all starts to bubble in Brain.

I set about looking for pictures of chairs.

Total thinky time = 40 minutes

Prepy time

Chairs are dumb.

First of all, finding sexy chairs is one thing. Finding them shot side on is another thing entirely. It seriously took me about an hour and I got sooooo bored with the idea, I stalked off to the pub in a very bad mood.

Time passed.

Life rolled.

I stalled. Things happened. I became withdrawn. Keep on keeping on and all that guff. To turn a corner, you have to keep walking and that was about all I could manage to do. (Replace walking with riding my bike and that about sums it up. My cycling tan is PRO!)

A glove line to be proud of

Now skip ahead 3.5 months. Get this thing going again. Get motivated. Just do something!

I looked back at the quote.

I’m somewhat naive to the nature of man. Why one person would walk up to another and shoot them as some kind of statement is beyond me. Then again, I’m just as confused as to why people who are given the choice of being a dick or not, seem to choose dick. Wait, that didn’t sound right…

Anyway, people like me who’ve had the Fairytale Chip (patent pending) installed in their brain are hobbled in this way. I believe that people, in general, want to be good. I say this all the time. I know it often doesn’t play out that way, but in my nearly 40 years on this planet, I have yet to give up on humans. And we do some really messed up shitty things to each other. Hope is a pleasant word, but the need for is born from violence of thought or action, of condition, of environment. Bad things happen. What’s is the word you reach for? Hope. It’s irrational.

So as much as I think about being all snarky and ‘sit down/stand up’ look at how wry and LOL you are, Brain wanders off and starts thinking about guns. And the smell of gun oil, and the smoothness of the stock of my Dad’s .22 rifle. Of bullet shells scattered on the floor of the farm ute. The chamber on a revolver. Isn’t it odd, I think, that Obama’s talking about an empty chair in this chamber and there’s a gun in some evidence locker also missing something from its chamber?

And that these are related.

Capitol Hill. A chamber. A gun. An empty chair.

My way forward is clear.

Bring me my ammunition!

Photo: Ryan Budhu, All Rights Reserved

I mean, literally, bring me ammunition. The plan was to build the Capitol Building out of gun related objects like ammunition, and treat the quote typographically. I spent the next hour looking for guns, weapons, and pish-posh bang things that fit shapes to create the building, and while doing that, stumbled on a picture of the capitol building on a $50 bill. It gave me an idea for how to treat the text. It’s very different from the original ‘chairs’ idea, but gave me something concrete to work toward.

Dirty money

Total Prepy time = 2 hours

Sit-down-and-doey Time

There was a lot of searching for paper textures and the right font. Strangely enough, the mint does not make the font freely available for the public to download! I know, weird right? The closest I could quickly find (and it’s not that close) was UnitedStates, but I figured I could adjust it for my purposes. I fudged the paper issue by cloning the good visible bits on the image that I had and making a full background sheet out of it. If I had time, I would sit down and spend many hours just working out how to create good textures. But I don’t have the patience for that when there is a time limit on these things.

Before I even started on the capitol building, I built the frame in which it would live. The pattern in the back is made of pistols. After finding this cheat sheet, I had a couple of different ones to choose from.

And then came the painstaking task of working out a basic jigsaw structure that could be repeated and repeated and repeated.

Pistol jigsaw

The next object was the bullet chamber, which I planned to put on both sides where the shells are sitting on the original bill. I made them quite dark – probably too dark upon reflection – and added in a little revolver where the rounds go. A couple of other small touches and the outer edge was done.

And now, to the text. I’m not so happy with how it turned out, considering I had to fake the depth by repeating and adjusting individual letters. I’m sure there’s a faster way. If I were less ambitious with the projects themselves – if I had simpler executions – I could probably spending time looking into these things in greater detail instead of constantly feeling the weight of the clock on me. So… when we get to the judging part, that’s gonna drag my score down.

The number in the corner. I ended up going with the 9 because the gun the shooter used was a 9mm and it was the only relevant number I could find that was low. After I finished, I googled most common handgun in the U.S. and couldn’t really find a verified answer. .38? That would have worked too, I guess.

And now, Brain marches on the Capitol!

A used a lot of different resources to fit shapes of windows and columns, all the while being very conscious of the fact that when they were shrunken down they’d probably be tiny. So I needed to pick things that resized well. The end of this bullet (which are actually cufflinks) for example.

Looking for basic shapes

The bandolier is perhaps the key to the whole thing. If you hint at the shape of the dome well-enough, you get the general sense of what the building is, and it’s recognizable enough that people get it. The pistols at the top of the dome and that bandolier column are my favorite parts of the whole thing.

It took a while to find the right kinds of shapes to fill windows – a police target ended up being perfect, while rifles worked well for straight line work.

My gun tree was probably less successful in that it muddied up the final composition, but when I got everything into the frame and made it smaller, I felt I needed shrubbery to hide cover up some holes.

Gun tree

A few more twiddles this morning and I had to say ‘pencils down!’ to the brain. Even though I was only able to work sporadically on the project, I figured I had probably exceeded the time limit and should just stop.

And so I did.

Stick. Brain. Poke. Rating

It’s been so long since I’ve done one of these, I kind of want to give it a four just to say ‘welcome back, Brain!’. But it’s not really a four. It a three. It’s ok. Not a total dud. I think conceptually, it didn’t turn out too shabby in the end. Executionally, it could do with some design skills learning. Some polish. The final moving of the building into the frame along with the gun trees and the resulting background I cobbled in there to hide all the white (dirtybrown) space is kind of a joke. Yep, it’s a red hot mess in there!

But viewed from across the room, this shit is TIGHT!

Total Sit-down-and-doey time = 14 hours (I may be lying a little because I got engrossed in tracing fiddly stuff. I enjoy it.)

YOUR HOMEWORK: Tell me, what do you think the The Loss of Motivation Suckhole look likes? Use your words. Or draw me a picture.

MY HOMEWORK: Just keep plugging away.


BTW, Tim Roth has changed his Twitter. He still does RanDoms from time-to-time, though I have well and truly stopped collecting them. Ten rounds will be enough for me.

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One Response to “State of the Union?”

  1. David August 18, 2011 at 1:33 pm #

    Welcome back, Brain. Better than the chairs, and I agree – from across the room that shit is tight. Modest critique: Flip the 9 upside down to get 6, the number of people that were killed.

    What he did was beyond you because he is insane and you, mostly, are not. He’s the outlier – the nature of man question needs to be asked of the people around him who saw him falling apart and were unable to do what needed to be done, starting with his parents.

    Also, “Tangled Up In Blue” FTW.

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