Sorry, Charlie

I’m probably the only human on earth that has not seen a single episode of the hit sitcom ‘Two and a Half Men’ but lately it’s been pretty difficult to avoid the sordid trainwreck-of-a-life that is Charlie Sheen. I’m sure Leno, Letterman and CoCo are nearly wetting themselves over how easily this late-show fodder writes itself, but Sheen’s claim of stone-cold sobriety through his exclusive interviews seem devoid of any professional PR influence. One minute he’s claiming that he doesn’t recall the last time he ‘used’ then in the next breath brags about how invincible he is when it comes to partying and doing drugs (“I was bangin’ seven-gram rocks and finishing them because that’s how I roll”). Clearly the poor man is self-destructive and he doesn’t seem to care.

Chuck Lorre, the producer of Sheen’s hit show claimed that he would be ‘really pissed’ if Charlie lived longer than him. Instead of being upset, Sheen took it in stride saying, “This is like a gigantic compliment. Chuck offered an olive branch. That’s how I interpreted it…This is about him personally. It doesn’t get to me, it’s not about me until the end. It’s a reflection of how he feels, in comparison to how insane my life appears at times. So, I took it as a huge compliment. He basically wrote a brilliant little piece of literature and called me Superman. Don’t people get it?”

Nope, can’t say that I do.

Pawned

One of our guilty pleasures lately has been watching the History Channel’s ‘Pawn Stars’. What amazes me is how desperate some of these people are for cash. I understand the premise behind a pawn shop, but there seem to be a lot of museum-quality treasures that are being sold by ‘bounty hunters’ for modest amounts of cash and five minutes on camera! If serious money is what these people are truly after, then I would think there are far more profitable paths than a small pawn shop on the outskirts of Las Vegas.

Gold and Silver Pawn Shop’s proprietor Rick Harrison is famous for pulling in experts to appraise the quality of some items that fall outside of his areas of expertise. Whenever he utters the words “I know a guy…” the seller should immediately assume that what they have is already worth more. The routine is predictable: Rick’s ‘expert’ guy comes in, looks the item over, tells him and the seller that the treasure is, in fact, an original and would easily fetch 25 million dollars at an auction. The expert leaves and the elated seller then proceeds to bargain with Rick.

‘What do you want to do? Pawn this or sell it?’

‘Uh, I’d like to sell it.’

‘How much do you want for it?’

‘Twenty-five million.’

‘Uh, ha ha ha. That’s not going to happen. That’s what I hope to sell it for. I’ll give you 100 thousand.’

‘How about 20 million?’

And the counter-offers start flying until Rick digs his heels in and delivers the line that calls the deal, “I’ll give you a firm 200 thousand.”

The camera focuses on the seller and you can just see it in his face that he knows it’s worth more and that there is no way he’ll get that value here. This is where I start yelling at the television telling the poor guy to take his treasure and sell it on eBay. He could even advertise that he was on TV and that his find was valued at $25 million. And that’s when he says, almost sheepishly, “well, it’s not the money I was hoping to get, but sure. I figure it’s better than nothing.” The handshake closes the deal while the world shakes its head in disbelief.

‘There’s a sucker born every minute’ the saying goes. If that’s true this show should be on for a very long time.

Form and Content: A Quiz

Whether or not you consider yourself a designer or even ‘design-savvy’, you’d be surprised to find that you are influenced by the psychology of form and content. It’s the designer’s job to ensure that the form (how a design looks) appropriately coordinates with the content (what the message is). Sometimes it’s quite easy, but other times it’s downright difficult. If the designer gets this wrong, the design suffers.

I often struggle to explain the importance of this concept to both clients and students. It’s certainly a skill every designer must master though many times I find that simple intuition will guide the visual learner to success nearly every time.

Not too long ago, my oldest son brought home a small piece of paper that had these two objects crudely illustrated on it. As part of an impromptu quiz, he explained that the class was asked to name each shape either ‘BOBO’ or ‘KIKI’. Surprisingly he told me that the class unanimously voted the same way. Curious? Take the quiz yourself and see how you fare.


Go, Pack, Go!

The kick-off to the ‘Super Bowl of the NFC’ begins in just a few minutes and already the excitement in our household is mounting. With half the family backing the Packers and the other ‘devout’ Bears fans, it’s a good thing we won’t be watching the game together. Instead we’ll attempt to live in ‘radio silence’ until we can return home to watch the commercial-free DVR presentation of the Green Bay Packers pounding the Chicago Bears. To be fair, I predict Chicago to be a worthy opponent for today’s game, but I think Mr. Rodgers is more than capable of taking the Packers all the way to the Super Bowl. Not that I’m biased or anything.

Football 2.0

We can put a man on the moon, but we can’t seem to apply today’s technology to improve the accuracy of the calls made by a football official. I suppose I’m a kill-joy for suggesting such improvements because part of the drama is the debate that opposing fans engage in when a questionable call is made. I think there will always be ‘unclear’ judgments made by those beloved ‘blind zebras’ but when it comes to pinpointing where exactly the ball is on the field I think they can do much better. Hey, this is the sport that gave instant replay a second chance so I think these ideas are worth the commissioner’s consideration.

I’ve always thought the casual toss of the referee’s bag to mark the location of a downed ball or a penalty was laughable. Why not arm him with something that will make this mark more definitive? With an air-powered ‘Officiator’, the referee could load the correct color magazine into this lightweight sidearm and fire directly into the turf with laser-guided accuracy. At least then Joe Running Back might think twice about attempting to snake that ball ahead a few more yards after the ref’s whistle calls the play dead.

Or how about that ‘close call’ on fourth down? You know, where the field officials signal to the chain gang to bring out their ‘highly accurate’ equipment to see how many inches short of the first down the offense’s drive is. Really?! Why can’t we develop a ‘smart’ football whose inner lining consists of a GPS studded polymer mesh ensuring that every inch of the ball can be tracked. The field could also be equipped with a corresponding subterranean GPS grid marking each yard of playable area. With this space-age system in place we wouldn’t have to watch ten solid minutes of slow motion replay footage from every angle to determine whether or not the fullback ‘broke the plane’ of the end zone (let alone watch referees fire colored flags from air-powered pistols).

The fans’ loyalty to these teams ensures that the players make bazillions of dollars. Rather than hike ticket prices further to adopt these changes I would suggest that a percentage of the players’ ginormous salaries be used to invest in these technological improvements. After all, when a ‘bad call’ is made, it’s their stats that get affected by it.

Politics as Usual

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I can’t wait for this election season to end. The constant deluge of negative campaigning is enough to trample any voter’s hopes for a better tomorrow. Whatever happened to the ‘Results You Can Believe In’ campaigns where a candidate’s positive resume of qualifications were the reasons to vote for them? Instead the status quo in political advertising seems to be go well beyond civilized banter to full-on, double-fisted, slanderous, mud-slinging rants that make the local grocer’s tabloid aisle an uplifting read.

It used to be that a candidate seemed to avoid the verbal endorsement on any ad that got this nasty in favor of having their respective party pick up the responsibility for such drivel but now it seems Joe Politician will gladly ‘approve this message’. Whatever happened to respect and accountability? Personally I’d think more highly of a candidate that exercised self-control and didn’t stoop to the level of their competition to play the ‘blame game’.

Halloween in North Dakota

I can empathize with all those trick-or-treating kids whose imaginative costumes have been cloaked in winter gear over the years. As I recall, Halloween in North Dakota seldom delivered the picturesque Rockwellian magic advertised by movies, cartoons and packaging. Instead you became accustomed to having to explain what you were supposed to be to every house you stopped at. “Oh! You’re a pirate, eh? I thought you were a deer hunter with a sword. Must be all that blaze orange.”

Considering the brevity of this childhood rite of passage, I’m surprised more kids haven’t fully embraced our hearty northern Halloween climate and adopted costumes that accommodate the layers of bundled warmth required by doting parents. Costumes like the Lambeau Field Cheesehead, Nanook the Eskimo Hunter or the classic –  Frosty the Snowman. Sure, none of them are traditional or scary but neither is Optimist Prime wearing a winter coat, hat and mittens.

Experiments

One of the coolest science projects I remember doing as a kid was the infamous baking soda and vinegar volcano. All-in-all this simple experiment using all household ingredients promised an exciting non-toxic reaction – which it did repeatedly without fail. Spending hours creating a realistic-looking volcanic peak out of clay seemed ridiculous considering the real pleasure came from dumping the ingredients inside it. I’m sure there was a lesson in there somewhere about how chemicals react with one another, but as any sixth grade boy bent on destruction could tell you: ‘who cares, it’s COOL!’

Financial Storm

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten was investing young (thanks, Dad). And while I am well aware that I don’t have all the answers when it comes to investing or have the skills to brave the toughest financial storms (that’s why I use a financial advisor), I do know that living within your means will afford you more financial independence than you ever imagined. Striving to be debt-free isn’t easy, but it’s something I think everyone can do if they really want to – regardless of income level. That’s my two cents.