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November 2007


Good morning. It's Wednesday, and it's time for a new Weekly Monster. Please say Hello to No.117:

I'm getting ready for my presentation at the AIGA Conference in Denver on Friday (11am--12.15pm), so I have to keep this post short. I still owe you a gallery of drawings for Open Source Monster 20 I already received some great creatures, but if you'd like to get in on the action, too, you have a few extra days to download OPEN SOURCE INK BLOT 20, print it out, and have some fun with it.

In the meantime, I'd love to hear what you think of No.117:


Of course, you can record some sounds (or words) as well, using the widget to the right. No doubt there are those among you called to be voice over or foley artists. I can't wait to read, see, and hear what you come up with!

See you in Denver, or back here next week! In the meantime, you can count on the fact that 344 LOVES YOU


Good afternoon. Technology rolls on. I just found a new Typepad widget that allows you to record sounds with your computer mic. It's in the bar to the right. I thought some of you might want to record some monster sounds. Growls, roars, gargles? Or maybe you'd like to tell a monster story, rather than write one. Supposedly, your sounds will show up in my inbox, and I'll have to post them to the blog. So it's a bit of a beta test, the whole thing. But let's see what happens.
In the meantime, listen to this: 344 LOVES YOU


Good morning. How are you? How was your weekend?

Yesterday was my birthday and I decided to give myself a gift: I finished the book portion of the impending multimedia extravaganza that is 100 DAYS OF MONSTERS. I worked until 4.30am to adjust all the little details that were in need of adjustment, pressed print, and went to bed, exhausted but proud. When I woke up, I went through the stack of pages. I saw the monsters and they were good.

Here are a few pictures from today's season finale:


As you can see, the pages---original (front) and revised (back)---are held together by big, beautiful elephant clips. After I mentioned a shortage in the binder clip department a few days ago, longtime monster friend Sam Berkes sent a surprise care package. Thank you, Sam!


Of course, when I reviewed the printouts, I did see a few systemic kerning issues that needed further action. On top of that, a few problems had emerged overnight. As I flattened all the monster images I noticed that the scans were a little bit too soft for me. (I like my monsters crisp.) So I batch processed the files with a smart sharpen effect. This worked out great, except that the sharpening also beefed up the dust particles on some of the scans, making them quite visible in some instances. So today I got to clean the dust off of about 20 monsters. With a 6 pixel healing brush. Fun, fun, fun!

Did I mention the missing markers yet? The printer needs my files broken up into 20MB chunks that are then reassembled in an InDesign Book file. With guidance from Grace the Art Director this worked out swimmingly. Except for images of markers I have bleeding off the edges of some of the spreads. For some reason, InDesign decided that markers on the far left edge of the left page belonged on the far right edge of the following right page. I didn't notice this until late this afternoon---after I had deleted all the errand marker images that had popped up in the file. "Where are all these extra marker files coming from? Sheesh! Delete--delete--delete!" So I had to go back to the master file, retrieve the little buggers, and restore them to their proper place.

What have we learned from all this? Books are fractal. There are always more fiddly bits to tend to. For all the time I spent on this book already, I could easily spend as much again to make decisions about an even more intricate level of details. Every change you make opens up the possibility of having to make that change consistent throughout the book. (Kerning the dates differently comes to mind, for example.) In the end, it comes down to making a decision: Are the changes making the product perceptibly better? Or have you gone to grouping the angels on the head of a pin by wingspan?

Where did I draw the line? I don't know. Is it the perfect book? Of course not. But I think it's a fun book, and an honest, loving attempt to represent a living website on the printed page.

Don't let the griping about all the work fool you, either. This is what I do, and I love it. Life is messy, confusing, and doesn't always yield to our desires, no matter how hard we work to make it so. By contrast, design (even more so than illustration) is reliable. It's an entirely artificial construct that rewards concentrated effort. The more work you put in, the more beauty comes out. Where else do you get that kind of return on investment?

As it is, I've already signed on to design a new photo book for the brilliant Jona Frank. I'm cooking up two new skunk works books with a friend, and a third of my own. I'm still determined to put out the Upstairs Neighbors book somehow. And a new poster is forming in my head. (Help!) In the meantime, Kenn and Tim are still working on the DVD. And then there's the joy of color proofing. But it's all getting there. I wish I could show the whole thing to you now, but we'll both have to wait until the end of February.

As far as the page files, I packed them up and showed them the door at five minutes to midnight, paused on my porch to throw a handful of POP-ITS snappers to exorcise the nasty ghosts of my last year, and walked to the FedEx drop box at my local post office.

This part is done.

Now it's on to what's next.


A few things for your calendar:

Please save the date: The weekend of March 1st/2nd will be my 34.4th birthday. This is within days of the book's release, and a mere month and 6 days before the 10th anniversary of the 344 Empire. I think all of that calls for a party of some sort, don't you? We'll have to figure out a way to celebrate. Please stay tuned.

More immediately, the first Daily Monster-enabled Halloween is coming up. What should we do to mark the occasion? Let me know what you'd like to see. The request lines are open!

Lastly, November 19th marks the first anniversary of the Daily Monsters. We'll have to think of some fun things to celebrate that one, too. If you have any thoughts on that one, please let me know.


Right now, it's so very much time for bed. I hope you'll have a great day. And, man.. you gotta know that 344 LOVES YOU


Good morning. Considering that I've actually posted a few items this week already, I don't even have to apologize to you about being a bad blogger. So... then... we can launch right in! Please say Hello to Monster 116:

Now, I don't want to put any pressure on you, but I think there are stories here. And as always, I'm counting on you to tell me what's going on. For example ***spoiler alert*** what's the relationship between these two monsters? Are they a pair? A team? A couple? Master and pet? Master and student? Or did one just suddenly sidle up to the other? (Incidentally, when was the last time you had occasion to sidle?) Are there words spoken? Or grunts exchanged? Is there food involved? Or a purchase of classified microfiche? Inquiring minds want to know. Won't you please...


I'm excited to see your theories! Until then, greetings from the book design trenches! And, please... won't you remember that 344 LOVES YOU


Good afternoon. I just leafed through the new issue of Los Angeles Magazine at the doctor's and stumbled on something surprising. Apparently, the designers at the magazine love 344. Take a look:


Now, I realize that there are instances where certain styles are in the ether,
like Modern Postcard's recent campaign with eerily familiar typography:


But the similarity between the L.A. Magazine spread
and my Deep Thought poster just seems uncanny...


You can click on the images for bigger views.

I went to the Los Angeles Magazine website to look for a contact e-mail. Lo and behold, they actually have the Adam Carolla spread on their home page. Go figure! I actually think that the magazine has made strides in recent months. It's starting to look really great. But I'm a bit disappointed that they didn't just ask me to do some illustrations for them. I'm not that hard to find. Anyway, I thought I'd share.
Because 344 LOVES YOU


Good morning. How are you? I hope you had a mellow weekend. (I realize that the word mellow has been appearing on this blog a lot lately, but it is my absolute top desire in life right now... so I wish it for you, as well.) I also know that I've been a very sporadic blogger of late. The Monster Book is getting very close to being ready for the printer (and it's already on Amazon, sort of.) After that, I'll write more often again, and we'll find some new things to do together. For now, I want to give you a little photographic glimpse into the book design process. Why? Because 344 LOVES YOU


Meet the Master Stack of Annotated Printouts. I received this from Amy The Editor, last Saturday. This, along with the list of design tweaks from Grace The Art Director, is my giant to-do list. You can see that it's already well thumbed after a week. The whole thing is arranged in four segments, because I didn't have a big enough elephant clip to make it one big brick. As it turns out, slimmer stacks are easier to navigate anyway, so that worked out well.


Between the sample pages and the first draft I somehow got all the A.M.s and P.M.s formatted wrong on every single page. (There are at least 4 on every page.) As it turns out, small caps are all the rage now, and nobody told me. I was able to switch them all out via InDesign's advanced Find/Replace command, but I couldn't quite figure out how to adjust the kerning automatically, too. So these are the little notes that help me keep the kerning consistent from page to page, as I slog through it manually. (Of course, these are just guides. Following a seven, I only track the P at 100 instead of 140. 140 would be just crazy following a 7.) Did I mention that all these bits run at 7 points?


On the left, you see the hopeful fortune cookie message that guides me right now. In the middle, you have the settings for the cast shadow on the time stamp tag on each spread. On the right (in a fetching red and black on orange combination) are the ten spreads I had to redesign for better legibility and that now require new hand-lettering. I had to redesign just shy of twenty spreads, but half of them worked with the existing lettering. (95% of all that is finished, scanned, and chopped into individual files as of earlier today, by the way.)


Finally, here's our old pal the Master Book Map again (with a Krylon-tastic postcard from and by Victoria peaking out from underneath.) All the red dotted pages are done. All the other pages still need some fine-tooth-comb attention in terns of kerning. All of the pages still need to be outfitted with the hand-lettering. So there's a lot left to do, but it'll work out. I have another week...

In the meantime, Kenn and Tim and Jen are still hard at work on the DVD. It'll be spiffy!

And just because all work and no play makes Stefan a dull boy, here are a few seconds of explicit hummingbird threesome action. There is no sound, so just hum to yourself as you watch. I suggest "Walking On Sunshine," or possibly "Walk On The Wildside." Or how about "Oh Yeah"? (Enjoy it here in the "Secret of My Success" version with Greek subtitles.)

I filmed the birds on my porch on Saturday. Please excuse the herky-jerky camera movements. These birds are complete junkies and they act the part. They usually dive bomb each other as they reenact WWII aerial battles. Or they get into nectar turf wars with the bees. So to have three of them sharing a relatively peaceful moment is rare. There was no time for me to grab the tripod. I tried to stabilize the motion in AfterEffects, but that'll only get you so far, especially when you don't really know what you're doing.

If you desire additional entertainment, my friend Jed just started a blog called Last Night on E.R. Yes, it's all E.R., all the time. But it's really not, of course. As he puts it, it's about the Big Show. Jed was the reason I went to work in Portland for 15 months 10 years ago, and his blog reminds me why that was the right call. Check it out.

That's all I have for you right now.
But there'll be more soon. There's always more!

See you on the other side!