Speaking of speech

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Recently I was asked by my alma mater to participate in a panel discussion regarding the many threats to free speech at the hands of terrorism.  We are all acquainted with the brutal and troubling ways in which this threat has played out in recent months. The panel happens April 6 at The College of William & Mary, so if you’re in the area, feel free to stop by and say hello. The alumni magazine thought it would be great to do a cover story on the same topic, and it made sense that I’d illustrate it.

In terms of imagery, there are few things that have been done to death as frequently as the “pen as weapon of free speech” has. Pen vs. gun: the symbolism is natural and obvious, but it seems to me like every working cartoonist drew their own similar version of it in response to the Charlie Hebdo attacks. My colleagues at the New Yorker offered their takes on the issue as well. Some of the images cartoonists created were brilliant and some were legitimately moving, but I intentionally avoided participating because I felt like I was struggling to come up with anything new on the issue. So this was personally a challenging assignment.

The first bunch of ideas I came up with felt a little too contrived, too gauche, especially since magazine covers are not usually the territory for overwrought editorial concepts.

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The cover idea that the editors picked was chosen not necessarily for it’s poignance or cleverness (because it’s not to be found there), but merely because click here to read the rest of this post

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SX Redux

I went to SXSW once again this year under strange circumstances – long story short, I was supposed to perform but it fell through but I still ended up going to the music portion (which is what I like anyway). I had a fake press conference:

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and I told Ronald McDonald what I thought of the fact that they weren’t handing out free Egg McMuffins despite the fact that they advertised their huge-ass music and food tent with a picture of an Egg McMuffin:

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and I fed “Southie,” the foam Colombian radio mascot who apparently cannot hold his queso:

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And I took some Instagram band pics (also using the Layrs app, which is pretty great):

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Metz

and I made a little teaser video. And I’m still trying to catch up on my sleep.

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Pictures of pepperoni elegantly reimagined as smaller pictures of pepperoni

Everyone loves pictures of pepperoni. Woot! But sometimes you’re browsing the web and you’re like – whoa, let’s take it down a notch or two, pepperoni pictures! I get it, you’re meaty and spicy and delicious, but do you have to take up half my screen? So I have taken up the task of reimagining what some of these might look like if they were smaller and more bite-sized, if you know what I mean. Let me know which ones you think work the best!

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The 10 best arty and musicky and designy and webby things that happened this year, to the best of my memory

A meta-list of notable and memorable things from 2014, in more or less chronological order.

1. Getting to see Vermeer’s famous Girl With a Pearl Earring in person, albeit with about a thousand other sweaty persons stuffed into the Frick on the last day of this Dutch painting exhibit. I couldn’t get as close as I hoped, but it was still worth it. The painting is luminous.

2. St. Vincent’s better-than-ever live show in support of her best-to-date record. I love how she shreds. And shreds.

3. A trip to Vienna, where I took in the Egon Schiele- and Gustav Klimt-heavy Leopold Museum, and a day running around spying murals in Berlin, including this massive spaceman:

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4. Graphic designer Adam Lewis Greene was looking for $37,000 to Kickstart the designing of a new Bible and wound up blowing well past a million dollars. Why? It’s a simple but cool idea: to present it in the format of a novel, with no chapters or numbers or annotation, with the possible benefit that someone might read it for what it means on the whole (and not to “aggressively” pull out single verses to clobber people with). It’s called Bibliotheca, elegantly presented with a font he designed especially for the project, and with stylish letterpress prints that caught my eye.

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5. Boyhood. Coulda watched it for three more hours. It ended just as my interest was peaking.

6. Wait, is it still 2005? I wouldn’t have anticipated that both Spoon and the New Pornographers would put out fantastic releases this year – arguably the best of their careers? – ten years after the height of their popularity. Or whatever you call popularity in the world of indie rock. “Educated folks singers want my soul.” I’m feeling you, Britt.

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7. TL;DR Wikipedia: Wikipedia condensed for your pleasure, in this parody site from someecards. (Full disclosure: I’m a contributor, but if I wasn’t I’d still be on here all the time.)

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8. The street art show at the now demolished but long defunct Precinct 21 police station on East 22nd St. in Manhattan. “four floors of dope.” I wrote about it in August.

9. Um, Too Many Cooks.

10. Lucius at Terminal 5. I liked Lucius’ more-or-less debut album in 2013, and I liked the band even more after seeing them live at the beginning of the year – the kudos they get for their live act is well-earned. This show was a homecoming for them after a year on the road, and it was a total home run, from the goosebump-inducing opener of “Go Home” to the ambitious crowd surfing to the confettied John Lennon Christmas-cover finale.

 

HONORABLE MENTIONS

honorable mentions 2014

Swoon at the Brooklyn Museum, the (announcement of the) resurrection of Twin Peaks, Over the Rhine’s continued excellence in the musical space they call “reality Christmas,” The Juan Maclean keeping DFA dance music on the map, and – is this really the only book I can recall reading this year? – my New Yorker editor Bob Mankoff’s entertaining cartoon memoir.

 

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Merry Xmas! 2 for the price of none

OK, I like Christmas music. I shouldn’t have to apologize for it. Well, some of it.

An author once said that the reason he writes books is because he has questions, not answers. Every year I put together a mix of Christmas-related music here, and it is my own attempt to address the question “where can I find good Christmas music that I’m not going get bludgeoned with everywhere else, but that isn’t just different for different’s sake?” So I’m at it again. As per usual, there’s every type of music on here – cheeky mashups, golden-era chestnuts, juicy soul, pine-scented Americana, gluten-free desserts, firesafe lighting strings, vintage stockings, I don’t even know where this list is going. Just enjoy it. You can listen to it here and/or download it from SoundCloud.

 

 

And… just because I was feeling it, I decided to make another mix with all of the songs that I liked, but that were too snoozy, and would have killed the vibe of the previous one. Yeah, another! But its quieter. It’s pretty nice. I have to admit something: I tested this mix on animals. I totally did. Defenseless bunnies and rescue monkeys and a turtle. No worries: they freaking loved it. So I think I’m in good shape, legally. It’s here also. Enjoy!

 

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Me and Bobby Flay

One day recently I was thinking about whether all those cooking shows on TV really help people to become better in the kitchen, or if, at the end of the day, it’s all just mere entertainment. But it occurred to me that those shows might actually put pressure on those who have to cook dinner regularly. Kind of like the Victoria’s Secret fashion show (which apparently is on right now because I see people angrily Tweeting about it) – I wonder if moms just say “I don’t need this in my life.” And that led to this cartoon, in this week’s magazine.

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I really sweated one particular detail in this one, which was the image on the TV. My instinct was to show a plain white screen, and you should almost always listen to your instinct. Instead, I overthought it and tried to put a silhouetted image in there. I thought some people would get the joke more easily if they saw a hint of Mr. Flay on the screen. But I can’t draw anything resembling a likeness, especially at this scale, and having a clunky approximation doesn’t help. Your eye wants to fill in the rest of detail that you know is there, that’s been started but not finished, and it’s an unnecessary distraction. It’s beside the point.

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When I returned to the white screen it seemed empty to me, so I then scratched in what I thought would look like a vague shot of food. But this was even worse. I found my eye constantly being drawn over to it, and thinking “what the hell is that?” So then I colored the screen in fully, thinking that would be an improvement, but to me it looked like the set was off. This took way longer than it should have. So I went back to the white screen, which suddenly looked fine.

Obviously, you could have asked: why didn’t you show the room from an angle where you didn’t see the front of the TV at all? Well, maybe it just all comes down to laziness. But I wanted to trust my first instinct about the perspective. Yeah, trust the instinct. Bah. You could also ask: why Bobby Flay and not Anthony Bourdain or Mario Batali or somebody else? Instinct. You could also ask: is she cooking the sweet potato soup with the blue corn tortilla chips in it? Hey, now who is overthinking everything?

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I just reheated the leftovers from last year’s Black friday.

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November 28, 2014 · 5:03 pm