Friday, October 30, 2009

Interview with Dave Sizemore

Around September 15th, 2009 a new website was born. Frankly, the birth of new websites is not all that exciting except this one emanates from the insanely imaginative and complexly talented head of David Sizemore (official site: DavidSizemoreDesign). Entitled H1N1forEveryone, the site details the swine flu pandemic through Dave's imaginative and complex images, some of these culled from pop culture while others are birthed directly from Dave's grey matter.
An interview follows between myself and Dave dealing with his thoughts on the rise and influence of H1N1, his work process, technology's impact on human interaction and the involvement of art and life.

Q.1: Dave, could you start by giving a brief introduction of yourself (who you are, where you work, are you married and educational background?)

A.1. Hello, my name is David Sizemore. Grew up in New Jersey, moved out to Ohio to go to university for graphic design. Met an amazing girl, graduated, married her, and we moved to North Carolina. I live there now, doing design work full-time.

Q.2:H1N1 is not really something that is particularly funny but your artwork seems to attempt to point at the funnier side of the H1N1 scare. What inspired you to start doing this?

A.2. H1N1 is terrifying. What I’m doing is cathartic. I read way more news than is healthy for me, and I obsess over all the contradictory information out there. Is the threat blown out of proportion? According this article in the New York Times, it is. Are we all going to die? According to this doctor's blog, yes, slowly and painfully. There is just so much out there. Is it better to get
the vaccine? Should New York require all of its medical personnel to have the vaccine if they want to say employed? Is there a way for me to do anything to protect myself sans a self-inflicted quarantine?
This past Sunday I was working in the nursery at my church, and a lady came through and dropped off a kid with mucus running from his bright-red face down his arms to the palms of his hands. He was wandering around, touching everything, squeezing out a string of rough coughs every forty-five seconds. But instead of flipping out on this stressed-out mom for exposing all these children to whatever her kid had, I made a picture lambasting her and posted it on the internet. It’s just a quasi-healthy way of dealing with the panic I feel every time I hear someone cough at the office/supermarket/car next to me at the stoplight.

Q.3: On one of your first mask images, the text 'Everyone Panic Now' is seen printed on the front of the mask. Are you a fan of Douglas Adams?

A.3. I am a fan of all the Douglas Adams I have read, which isn’t much. I’ve just read a bunch of the Hitchhiker's Guides, ending with Thanks For All The Fish. I probably haven’t read them since high school, though. British humorists are fantastic. So yes, I am a fan, but that ‘everyone panic now’ wasn’t directly, or at least consciously, inspired by him.
I’d say that my phrase was more inspired by Glenn Beck’s Doom Room. He freaks me out. I don’t agree with his view of politics (life, really), which makes it easier for me to write him off as a kook, but I can relate to his fear and paranoia and overinflated sense of self-worth. We all can, to some extent. But that’s where that phrase came from, mostly.

Q.4: One of my particularly favorite images is your use of BRA (Be Ready Always). Do you think the use of this type of mask will really catch on?

A.4. Isn’t that great? I love that someone spent the time and energy to develop a bra that will actually work as a proper medical mask. No, I don’t see it catching on. I can’t imagine a major undergarment company working with the people who own this patent to develop a comfortable version of the product, which I think would be its biggest hurdle. Then you’d have to convince people it was worth the extra money to own these bras exclusively, since they would only be useful in an emergency if you already had it on. Then you’d have to convince the lady next to you to take off her bra and let you stick it over your face, which is quite hard to do.

Q.5: The obvious question then is have you tried this and under what possible circumstances?

A.5: Of course. It's a great pick-up line. I used it back in 1968 during the Hong Kong flu. That's how I met my wife.

Q.6: Your adaption/use of American Gothic is somewhat eerie (even more than the original). Do you see yourself doing more of this type of work in future-perhaps Mona Lisa or Picasso's Three Musicians?

A.6: That image is so creepy because the woman is gone. There is a guy with a surgical mask on and his wife missing. It’s a familiar image sans an integral piece, which is off-putting. Is the woman dead? Is she refusing to participate in her husband’s paranoid fantasy? I actually have a version of this with my wife in there, but it doesn’t look good because I couldn’t get her hair right. In frustration I took her out, and then the piece worked, so I was done. Voila, secret revealed.
I don’t plan on using other famous images. Frankly, I get tired of images from pop culture being recycled endlessly. It might happen, though. I wasn’t planning on using American Gothic, Iwas just trying to make an image using my wife and it evolved into something else. Something without her, actually. So, no Mona Lisa.

Q.7: The title of your site H1N1foreveryone could be considered offensive to some people who have encountered the flu. Have you had swine flu? Where do you stand about the danger of swine flu?

A.7: It is offensive, a bit. I would imagine it would be quite offensive to anyone who has lost someone to the flu in the past year. Being offensive is not my aim, and hopefully most people will understand that. But it’s the Internet, so I’m sure someone will eventually take offense. C’est la vie.
I have not had the swine flu. I was ill last week, but I displayed none of the respiratory symptoms and only missed a day of work. So I’m sure it was something else. But I stand on the flu being super-duper dangerous. People have died. Death is dangerous. But so far more people die annually from the regular flu, so that’s pretty dangerous, too. What isn’t dangerous?

Q.8: Do you think that as viruses, such as the avian flue or H1N1, continue to spread do you think companies will begin to invest in designer-made masks?

A.8: I’d imagine a few designer masks, but there will probably be more home-customized masks. Celebrities will have designer masks for when they have to come out to mingle with the ordinary people. They’ll be more expensive, safer, and have little logos embroidered on the mask's silk in gold thread. There will be lots of folks who draw smiley faces on their masks, but that will come to an end after CNN does an investigative report that finds the ink in sharpies degrades the structural integrity of a mask’s protective field.

Q.9: Do you have a designer mask?

A.9: I don’t actually own a mask at all. If I did I would draw a Tom Selleck mustache on it.

Q.10: I very much enjoyed your rendition of Michael Jackson and the Thriller zombies. Do you plan to do a celebrity line of mask-based art?

A.10: I love that one! Michael Jackson was never on my musical radar until he died. Then he was all over the radio for a while, and I discovered that I actually liked his music. Started doing a little research, which wasn’t hard in the aftermath of his passing, and found all this picture of him and his kids in masks. I knew he had worn some for a while, but absolutely loved the pictures of his kids. It’s a perfect way to deal with the paparazzi. So I had to do one for him, and then with the zombies from the Thriller video cross pollinated with the DVD cover for 28 Days Later; it all just wove together so nicely. And I said I didn't like recycled pop-culture references.

Q.11:Who are your influences? Whom do you find has really pushed you to succeed in this particular area of epidemic-based art?

A.11: Ha. My influences for this? This stuff I’ve been doing doesn’t look like anything that I like. I really like illustration work that has strong, dark lines, very graphic work. Michael Sieben, Travis Millard, Mike Giant, Von Glitschka. But the work I do on my H1N1 blog is all done on the computer on lunch breaks - if I started out from sketches, it would take a lot longer and I’d be pushing out one a week. So this looks very different than what inspires me. They are my inspiration, I’m not sure exactly what has influenced this work. Maybe Eric Tan, a little. His work is amazing.
As far as pushing goes, I’d have to say paranoia. Coffee-fueled paranoia.

Q.12: What inspires you to do a particular image? Is something on the news or, as you mentioned previously, simply paranoia playing?

A.12:.Mostly news. Or an event that happens specifically to me. Renting the Watchmen DVD led to posting a Watchman themed mask. Voila. Thats normally how it works. Or I’ll get worked up over something and need to release some of that pressure. I’d like post something about vaccines soon - I’ve been reading a lot about them recently, and it makes me very upset to hear so many people deciding not be vaccinated.
Go ahead and check your Facebook page - I guarantee someone has posted a link to some article about how the government is trying to turn children into autistic communists via vaccine, or how the flu shot is 95% mercury and 4% rat poison. And these are sane, rational people! How the Internet turns otherwise normal people into raving lunatics is beyond me. So instead of ranting, and contributing to the idiocy, I try to come up with some silly pictures. It’s just more healthy for me, dealing with things this way.

Q.13: Do you listen to any particular music while working on these?

A.13: I listen to exclusively to Genghis Tron’s “Things Don’t Look Good", setting it to just repeat over and over. Normally I don’t equate music with inspiration. Certain packaging or posters for bands might be inspiring, but that’s different from their actual music. Example: Pearl Jam always puts out quality gig posters, but I don’t particularly enjoy their music. They’ve influenced me, but I don’t listen to them. I like music, but I’m not sure any sonic vibrations influence my work.

Q. 14: I recently read World War Z by Max Brooks and one of the things your images reminds me of is the no-contact type of thinking between those who are ill and those are not. The occurence of H1N1 seems to give some credence to zombie films whereby avoiding the infected the uninfected stay safe. Of course with H1N1 nobody is lopping heads off. Leprosy comes to mind as well. As you build these images and contemplate new ones does the zombie film culture/sub-culture influence your thinking at all? Have you drawn a similar parallel?

A.14: Zombie-ism definitely influenced some of my images. The part of zombie lore that I relate to the most is the sense of helplessness that the average human has in a zombified culture. There’s an inevitableness to a zombie situation. Normal people become zombies. That’s just what happens. There’s going to be three or four people running around doing quasi-heroic things, but that’s not you and me. We’re going to be trying to eat their brains. And that sort of inevitability comes into play with how I think about H1N1.Of course, that scenario is very much a zombie-movie scenario. I imagine - I have not read it - that World War Z is quite different. A book can deal with all sorts of global repercussions and the cool political aspects that would not translate as well, or as easily, in a movie.

Q.15: Do you think the occurence of H1N1 will have any lasting mental effects, even more than then physical sickeness on us as Americans? In a society that is increasingly more withdrawn, because of the ease of home access to media, do you think that something like this 'pandemic' will help to isolate people further?

A.15: Perhaps. You can Netflix your movies and buy your books on and work from your home, but you still see other humans. The isolation is there, but it has not yet eradicated human contact. That contact might not be meaningful to you, but it’s still there. Feelings of isolation don’t actually make you isolated! You simply cannot isolate yourself enough to create real barriers without radically changing your lifestyle, which few people are likely to do. We want ease as well as protection. But this aspect of isolation is why we have malls. We want shopping without having to be exposed to crime. So instead of taking a train into the city and walking the streets, we drive to a Segway-patrolled parking garage where we take an video-monitored elevator to our floor. Yes, it’s also convenient, but again, we weigh ease and safety as equal.
I foresee less a change in people’s patterns and more changes in what they consider acceptable amounts of protection. I don’t think people will stop going to malls - I think they will require that the mall hire medical personnel to perform screenings before they let people attend a movie. Seriously. As long as private businesses do it and not the government, I would imagine very few people complaining.

Q.16: Related to the previous question-Do you think there may be any other effects in terms of social interaction or human thinking?

A.16: Perhaps a greater willingness to exchange information between countries. Mexico seemed to be pretty transparent when this all started, and we were hearing a lot about safety precautions all over the world, even in some countries that don’t necessarily have a reputation being open with their media coverage. I haven’t been alive long enough to know if that’s normal, but it seemed like governments were okay with letting news organizations let other countries know what they were doing, which was neat. Maybe in the future we’ll have better communication between governments as horrible plagues sweep the globe. That would be nice.
I think social interaction is currently changing drastically, but I think that has more to do with technology than particular events. An example would be Twitter and the Iranian elections - that was a global event that changed how people view media and social interaction, but it seems like Twitter benefitted more from the convergence than Iran. I see the news of the use of technology being more important than the actual event(s) are for a period of time in the near future. If that makes sense. That sounds pretty crazy.

I guess that’s it. Also, I have to make sure that I warn anyone who has made it all the way through this that they should really avoid Genghis Tron, the Watchman DVD, zombie movies, and Twitter. I think they are all really crappy. But if you like any of those things, that doesn’t make you a crappy person. Some of those things are okay sometimes. Different people like different things.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Carlos Ruiz Zafon on the brain

(In terms of reading modern fiction) "...It seems like it is a sin that if it is popular it can not be good... Who is saying those things? What is their personal agenda, what are the interests behinds this type of things...that someone is trying to tell us what we should think, What we should consider good is it because we are idiots and cannot decide for ourselves? One of the things I am trying to communicate to readers is to...think for yourself, decide for yourself. We have a brain between our ears...and that's a lot of the point of reading and exploring literature is about that, about using that brain to enjoy, to find beauty, to find intelligence to find ideas. So let's use it. And then we'll be able to decide." Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Friday, October 9, 2009

H1N1-Young, Hip, High at Risk

You should immediately head over to H1N1ForEveryOne! This is a site of artwork inspired by, and dedicated to, the mystique, style and allure of H1N1. This timely and provocative work was created and posted by none other than the illustrious and handsome David Sizemore-check out his new website as well. The images on this clever and witty site definitely puts the 'fun' into H1N1.
David is originally from NJ, went to Cedarville where he graduated with a BS in Exceptional Graphic Design (EGD) and currently lives and works in NC with his lovely wife Kari.
Please stay tuned here for an interview to be posted to this site at a later date.

Elie Wisel to speak at Wilkes Univ. (PA)

Found out this morning that Elie Wisel will be speaking at Wilkes University on Nov. 17. Definitively an opportunity of a lifetime to hear this man. He is a Holocaust survivor and continued advocate of human rights as well as being an accomplished author and teacher.
Details here.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Gentleman control your thumbs

This is a really interesting article dealing with the issue of the control of technology. Because people are acting in an unsafe way (texting/emailing) within their cars, this article states that the technology of the phone needs to control the individual's use of it. Yhe phone will not work in particular situations so as to prevent the individual from harming themselves or others. This is remarkably backwards. It, the situation, also questions the viability of the truth that development of technology is a progression forward, an evolutionary movement upward. The article makes the very poignant statement that "...drivers value convenience more than safety..." What this situation brings into sharp relief is our distance from our community(ies). Driving already puts the driver into a plastic/metal/glass bubble and texting/emailing and to a certain extent talking on the phone puts that individual into a second bubble, if you will, within the first further removing them from initial bubble as well as knowledge/concern for the other bubbles about them. It's only when these bubbles come into forcibly interact (i.e. crash) that there is awareness of interaction. The issue here is not of control of technology but of our own ability to control ourselves. The fact of this article even being written indicates that the convenience of being able to text, some might even say 'the right to text', is more important than limiting oneself to not texting while driving. As a civilization (D. Jensen) we/I/they are seemingly, universally unable to keep a very small, device, that we can deactivate at will with the touch of a button, from constantly, even imperiously, commanding our attention whenever it vibrates/beeps/rings/plays your favorite obnoxious song.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

turn the page see the video

NYT reported on a new type of book this morning as something called a vook which is begin marketed as a digital hybrid of video and text. While navigating through the prose the reader can then view a video that 'adds' content and flavor to the work. This approach to a certain extent makes sense with some books that this is being applied such as exercise or how-to books. However, in my humble opinion, the inclusion of images/background into a fictional/non-fictional/biographical text continues to move towards removing any work from the part of the reader. Granted, not all books should be work to read but, again my opinion, the good and really good ones are work. In a closely related article this morning, also from NYT, the idea of reading and some of the implications of the vook are explored in greater detail garnering quotes from both sides of the process. About halfway through the article a publisher is quoted as wanting to add music/perfume to the text with the goal of wanting " use all the senses". The first question to this statement is why? Why does a text need to reflect the pretty smells of a text or be stimulated by other sensory input? What is added? If you want a pretty smelling book I would suggest going to your local library and perusing their used book table/rack. Find as many trade paperbacks as are there and start smelling. I can almost 100% guarantee that one of those books is going to smell like perfume. Problem solved. Besides all the implications of reading as a past time being lost as the book struggles to find its way through this 'late of age of print' as Striphas refers to it, there is also the question of how does this benefit the reader's experience. For the book on 18th century French street music that has links to the tunes, that makes a lot of sense because the linking provides outside support rather than attempting to help carry the story. The counter-argument could be made that including some video in a fiction book provides the same support but I believe that the philosophy of inclusion is different. While there may be a side product of entertainment when listening to the clips of French music the only goal of a video inclusion in a fiction work is entertainment, at least based on what is included here. Is the publisher looking to help the reader or simply sell more titles? Is the goal here consumption control or is it consumer benefit? To a certain extent, this thing called the 'vook', absolutely horrible name, helps to illustrate what Ted Striphas in his recent book 'The Late Age of Print' recognizes as the tension between moving images and text. (I'm currently finishing up this book and will post some thoughts on it.) The vook is a logical conclusion of attempting to resolve some of those tensions. Unfortunately, based on these articles, it comes across as a cheap hack rather than a thoughtful development.