Monday, November 8, 2010

A short tale from Haruki Murakami's After Dark

"Three brothers went out fishing and got caught in a storm. They drifted on the ocean for a long time until they washed up on the shore of an uninhabited island. It was a beautiful island with coconuts growing there and tons of fruit on the trees, and a big, high mountain in the middle. The night they got there, a god appeared in their dreams and said, 'A little farther down the shore, you will find three big, round boulders. I want each of you to push his boulder as far as he likes. The place you stop pushing your boulder is where you will live. The higher you go, the more of the world you will be able to see from your home. It's entirely up to you how far you want to push your boulder.' So the three brothers found three boulders on the shore just as the god had said they would. And they started pushing them along as the god told them to. Now these were huge, heavy boulders, so rolling them was hard, and pushing up an incline took an enormous effort. The youngest brother quit first. He said, 'Brothers, this place is good enough for me. It's close to the shore, and I can catch fish. It has everything I need to go on living. I dont mind if I cant see that much of the world from here.' His two elder brothers pressed on, but when they were midway up the mountain, the second brother quit. He said, 'Brother,this place is good enough for me. There is plenty of fruit here. It has everything I need to go on living. I dont mind if i cant see that much of the world from here.' The eldest brother continued walking up the mountain. The trail grew increasingly narrow and steep, but he did not quit. He had great powers of perseverance, and he wanted to see as much of the world as he possible could, so he kept rolling the boulder with all his might. He went on for months, hardly eating or drinking, until he had rolled the boulder to the very peak of the high mountain. There he stopped and surveyed the world. Now he could see more of the world than anyone. This was the place he would live-where no grass grew, where no birds flew. For water, he could only lick the ice and frost. For food, he could only gnaw on moss. But he had no regrets, because now he could look out over the whole world. And so, even today, his great, round boulder is perched on the peak of that mountain on an island in Hawaii."

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Ken the Rock and Roll Barber

You wouldn't know it from the decor or the square footage, but Ken's barber shop in San Jose is a place of learning.

Here's the short review I posted on Yelp after my first haircut with Ken:

A truism plaguing the contemporary metropolitan man is that men don't know how to be men, especially when it comes to hair. "Back in the day," as Ken explains, "getting a hair cut was about necessity, not about status." I learned this lesson the hard way after forking over 70 bucks at a local salon for a "stylish" hair cut. Take a lesson from me, if you want a good haircut go to Ken. He's been at it for 25 years. You'll feel more like a man all the way home.

My only regret is that I wish my hair would grow quicker so I could spend more time in Ken's shop. As I was getting my cut today, Ken and I talked about business basics, advertising, among other things. I told Ken that even though I've just finished a master's in mass comm. with a concentration in advertising, I've found that the only truly meaningful way to advertise is the simplest, namely, word of mouth (a clunky expression in the ad jargon that means simply treating people right so they tell others). He agreed and added that there's nothing more frustrating for him than receiving phone calls from ad people that get defensive when he tells them directly that they don't know what he needs.

During our conversation, I resolved to not do design work for anyone that I don't know. Of course, I don't mean that I won't be open to serendipitous encounters and new business leads from friends and such. I just want to emulate Ken, a man who has been plying his craft for over 25 years, and has learned some things about how to keep clients for the long haul.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Intricacies of The Social Network

The social network is not a film. It is a litmus test for the beliefs of the audience concerning the place of networks in our life and their acceptance/rejection of the people that brought these gadgets to fruition.

It is the only film that I was enticed to see solely on the basis of its reviews. The reviewers (and the film makers themselves) seemed to be astonished by the audience reaction to the film. Reviewer after reviewer pointed out the polarizing effect that the film had on watchers, leading to spirited arguments outside of movie theaters.

This scenario played itself out with me and my entourage to a tee. My camp divided itself into the Zuckerberg haters, who could not forgive him for what they perceived as his ruthless treatment of those who stood in the way of his vision. The other camp felt cathartically inspired by the decidedly non-glamourous image of a socially autistic techie engaging in some gratifying battles with the establishment and other forces of conformity.

Like most reviewers, I also believe that the importance of this film is in the types of debate that it engenders. These debates touch on some important issues such as the nefarious consequences of the increasing mediation of our personal relationships. But I also believe that there are political and class issues in the film that we ought to engage. The political message of the film is the overthrow of old business models, and, by implication, the musty, oaky, nepotistic class system within which they thrive.

Even so, I'm still not sure...will Zuckerberg be a hero or a villain? I'm afraid that this film, more than anything, represents the high mark in the history of Facebook. And along with being a perceptive, subtle and engaging interpretation of its triumph, it also, unintentionally, suggests that this is the beginning of the end.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Should I use Arial/Helvetica for my resume?

Helvetica Mug.
Photo via

Sans serif fonts have made a serious comeback. And who better to lead this resurgence than the original, I'm talking about Helvetica. For those looking for a thorough overview of the history of this font be sure to check out the Helvetica documentary by Gary Hustwit. Not only is it an impeccably imaginative documentary, but I'm sure it has single handedly been responsible for inspiring fledgling designers like myself. So it is fitting to start this blog with a shout out to a font that is itself an institution. As fun as it is to play with Helvetica and other sans serif fonts while designing, however, how practical are they for more mundane projects like resumes? So now that I've given my props, let's trash talk.

The girlfriend asked for advice regarding which font to use for her resume. Even with my limited experience, I've become sort of the defacto graphic design consultant in our household. After giving her a short lecture about my newly acquired knowledge of the history of this font thanks to said documentary, I advised against the use of either Helvetica or Arial for her resume. Helvetica and most sans-serif fonts (sans-serif means "without" serif, the serif being the little added flecks that jut out from the ends of serif fonts) do not have enough inherent variety in word form to aid legibility. This is why the default font for most newspapers and reading intensive media have serifs, such as Times New Roman or Georgia (the one you're reading). A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is that serifs make words readable, because like most things in life, variety attracts engagement. Thus, when deciding on a font for your resume stick to those that are easy to read.