The Purpose of Life

For the longest time, in the South visitor’s center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City, hung the following mural by Robert Oliver Skemps (click the image for a larger view):


New I-Center Mural

It depicts God’s plan for our existence on earth, a probationary period during which we  have the opportunity to obtain a physical body to experience life’s blessings and challenges, and be tested to see if we will exercise our free agency to choose good or to choose evil. From left, the seminal events in our life are birth – our arrival in this world from our previous existence with God; instruction in the home; education; marriage; work; family; adversity; fulfillment; and finally death – our return home to the God who gave us life.

It’s a beautiful painting, but at some point the Church decided that it had a “dated” look – it definitely looks like something out of the 50s, and was originally commissioned for display at the New York World’s Fair in 1964. After being removed from Temple Square, the painting was sent to the Hyde Park Chapel in London where it hung for many years, until it was carefully removed by Scott M. Haskins and lovingly restored. It is now displayed at Brigham Young University Idaho.

Taking its place in the visitor’s center was a new version by Joseph Brickey. In a communication with me, he mentioned his challenge in “updating” such an iconic painting. Church authorities wanted the same painting with modern attire, and Mr. Brickey indicated that he solved the problem by advocating for “metadating” instead – that is, going backward in time to a pioneer setting that would be timeless and resonate with people of any generation.

I was able to go home to Salt Lake early this month, and took this picture (potato quality because it was shot with my ancient Galaxy S5, but good enough to give you the idea – click the image for a larger view:)


Purpose of Life Painting 2

The message – this time presented from right to left – remains the same, but the pioneer motif definitely seems more appropriate to past, present, and future.

As mentioned in this blog post, there is another version of this mural, also by Robert Oliver Skemps, depicting the purpose of life with Asian models, which hung in the visitor’s center of the Hawaiʻi temple. I once saw a thumbnail of it, but have been unable to locate it again. It was salvaged during the demolition/reconstruction of that visitor’s center, but I’m not sure if it was ever acquired by the Church. If it is ever restored, I’ll do my best to get it up here.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Working “for the exposure” – an Open Letter to Elon Musk.

Dear Mr. Musk:

Make no mistake about it – I’m a fan. You have done and continue to do amazing things with technology, which will benefit humanity in incalculable ways as things only continue to improve.

I’m putting “Unicorngate” down to a simple lack of awareness of what happens on the ground to virtually countless artists, writers, web designers, composers, photographers, playwrights, and so many others who depend on their sweat and blood and tears and creativity to make a living. Tom Edwards is one such, and intriguingly enough from all I’ve read, he remains a fan of your efforts.

Ask any creative soul – they’ve probably been asked to work for free. One of the best essays on the subject I’ve seen includes illustrations by Emmie Tsumura, who imagines the faces of people who want you to work “for exposure.” I recommend the piece.

tsumura1

Illustration by Emmie Tsumura

These people probably fall into one of two categories: Cheap bastards, and the totally unaware. Mr. Musk, I don’t know you from Adam’s off-ox, but you don’t strike me as falling into the first category. I suspect that what happened is that somewhere in your organization, someone who wasn’t even thinking about copyright violations thought Tom Edwards’ work would make a good bit of marketing fluff, and before you or anyone else at the top was aware, it had been incorporated at multiple levels.

The right thing to do would have been to compensate Mr. Edwards fairly for the privilege of continuing to use his work, or to apologize for the error, pull the illustration from your materials, compensate him fairly anyway, and move on.

Telling him that suing would be kind of lame, and intimating that the exposure was good for his business, is essentially being this guy:
tsumura2

Illustration by Emmie Tsumura

Don’t be that guy. Your company can afford to pay people fairly for their work. The optics of doubling down on an issue where you’re clearly taking the wrong position are terrible, and the world needs Tesla to look good.

That’s all.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Jenny Holzer: Truisms

According to Wikipedia:

Jenny Holzer (born July 29, 1950, Gallipolis, Ohio) is an American neo-conceptual artist, based in Hoosick Falls, New York. The main focus of her work is the delivery of words and ideas in public spaces.

Holzer belongs to the feminist branch of a generation of artists that emerged around 1980, looking for new ways to make narrative or commentary an implicit part of visual objects. Her contemporaries include Barbara Kruger, Cindy Sherman, Sarah Charlesworth, and Louise Lawler.

Holzer’s initial public works, Truisms (1977–79), are among her best-known. They first appeared as anonymous broadsheets that she printed in black italic script on white paper and wheat-pasted to buildings, walls and fences in and around Manhattan. These one-liners are a distillation of an erudite reading list from the Whitney Independent Study Program, where she was a student. She printed other Truisms on posters, T-shirts and stickers, and carved them into stone benches. In late 1980, Holzer’s mail art and street leaflets were included in the exhibition Social Strategies by Women Artists at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts, curated by Lucy Lippard.

Her list of truisms follows below. While I don’t agree with all of her thoughts, cut from whole cloth, I find value in many of them. Your mileage may vary.


A little knowledge can go a long way.
A lot of professionals are crackpots.
A man can’t know what it is to be a mother.
A name means a lot just by itself.
A positive attitude means all the difference in the world.
A relaxed man is not necessarily a better man.
A sense of timing is the mark of genius.
A sincere effort is all you can ask.
A single event can have infinitely many interpretations.
A solid home base builds a sense of self.
A strong sense of duty imprisons you.
Absolute submission can be a form of freedom.
Abstraction is a type of decadence.
Abuse of power comes as no surprise.
Action causes more trouble than thought.
Alienation produces eccentrics or revolutionaries.
All things are delicately interconnected.
Ambition is just as dangerous as complacency.
Ambivalence can ruin your life.
An elite is inevitable.
Anger or hate can be a useful motivating force.
Animalism is perfectly healthy.
Any surplus is immoral.
Anything is a legitimate area of investigation.
Artificial desires are despoiling the earth.
At times inactivity is preferable to mindless functioning.
At times your unconsciousness is truer than your conscious mind.
Automation is deadly.
Awful punishment awaits really bad people.
Bad intentions can yield good results.
Being alone with yourself is increasingly unpopular.
Being happy is more important than anything else.
Being judgmental is a sign of life.
Being sure of yourself means you’re a fool.
Believing in rebirth is the same as admitting defeat.
Boredom makes you do crazy things.
Calm is more conductive to creativity than is anxiety.
Categorizing fear is calming.
Change is valuable when the oppressed become tyrants.
Chasing the new is dangerous to society.
Children are the most cruel of all.
Children are the hope of the future.
Class action is a nice idea with no substance.
Class structure is as artificial as plastic.
Confusing yourself is a way to stay honest.
Crime against property is relatively unimportant.
Decadence can be an end in itself.
Decency is a relative thing.
Dependence can be a meal ticket.
Description is more important than metaphor.
Deviants are sacrificed to increase group solidarity.
Disgust is the appropriate response to most situations.
Disorganization is a kind of anesthesia.
Don’t place to much trust in experts.
Drama often obscures the real issues.
Dreaming while awake is a frightening contradiction.
Dying and coming back gives you considerable perspective.
Dying should be as easy as falling off a log.
Eating too much is criminal.
Elaboration is a form of pollution.
Emotional responses ar as valuable as intellectual responses.
Enjoy yourself because you can’t change anything anyway.
Ensure that your life stays in flux.
Even your family can betray you.
Every achievement requires a sacrifice.
Everyone’s work is equally important.
Everything that’s interesting is new.
Exceptional people deserve special concessions.
Expiring for love is beautiful but stupid.
Expressing anger is necessary.
Extreme behavior has its basis in pathological psychology.
Extreme self-consciousness leads to perversion.
Faithfulness is a social not a biological law.
Fake or real indifference is a powerful personal weapon.
Fathers often use too much force.
Fear is the greatest incapacitator.
Freedom is a luxury not a necessity.
Giving free rein to your emotions is an honest way to live.
Go all out in romance and let the chips fall where they may.
Going with the flow is soothing but risky.
Good deeds eventually are rewarded.
Government is a burden on the people.
Grass roots agitation is the only hope.
Guilt and self-laceration are indulgences.
Habitual contempt doesn’t reflect a finer sensibility.
Hiding your emotions is despicable.
Holding back protects your vital energies.
Humanism is obsolete.
Humor is a release.
Ideals are replaced by conventional goals at a certain age.
If you aren’t political your personal life should be exemplary.
If you can’t leave your mark give up.
If you have many desires your life will be interesting.
If you live simply there is nothing to worry about.
Ignoring enemies is the best way to fight.
Illness is a state of mind.
Imposing order is man’s vocation for chaos is hell.
In some instances it’s better to die than to continue.
Inheritance must be abolished.
It can be helpful to keep going no matter what.
It is heroic to try to stop time.
It is man’s fate to outsmart himself.
It is a gift to the world not to have babies.
It’s better to be a good person than a famous person.
It’s better to be lonely than to be with inferior people.
It’s better to be naive than jaded.
It’s better to study the living fact than to analyze history.
It’s crucial to have an active fantasy life.
It’s good to give extra money to charity.
It’s important to stay clean on all levels.
It’s just an accident that your parents are your parents.
It’s not good to hold too many absolutes.
It’s not good to operate on credit.
It’s vital to live in harmony with nature.
Just believing something can make it happen.
Keep something in reserve for emergencies.
Killing is unavoidable but nothing to be proud of.
Knowing yourself lets you understand others.
Knowledge should be advanced at all costs.
Labor is a life-destroying activity.
Lack of charisma can be fatal.
Leisure time is a gigantic smoke screen.
Listen when your body talks.
Looking back is the first sign of aging and decay.
Loving animals is a substitute activity.
Low expectations are good protection.
Manual labor can be refreshing and wholesome.
Men are not monogamous by nature.
Moderation kills the spirit.
Money creates taste.
Monomania is a prerequisite of success.
Morals are for little people.
Most people are not fit to rule themselves.
Mostly you should mind your own business.
Mothers shouldn’t make too many sacrifices.
Much was decided before you were born.
Murder has its sexual side.
Myth can make reality more intelligible.
Noise can be hostile.
Nothing upsets the balance of good and evil.
Occasionally principles are more valuable than people.
Offer very little information about yourself.
Often you should act like you are sexless.
Old friends are better left in the past.
Opacity is an irresistible challenge.
Pain can be a very positive thing.
People are boring unless they are extremists.
People are nuts if they think they are important.
People are responsible for what they do unless they are insane.
People who don’t work with their hands are parasites.
People who go crazy are too sensitive.
People won’t behave if they have nothing to lose.
Physical culture is second best.
Planning for the future is escapism.
Playing it safe can cause a lot of damage in the long run.
Politics is used for personal gain.
Potential counts for nothing until it’s realized.
Private property created crime.
Pursuing pleasure for the sake of pleasure will ruin you.
Push yourself to the limit as often as possible.
Raise boys and girls the same way.
Random mating is good for debunking sex myths.
Rechanneling destructive impulses is a sign of maturity.
Recluses always get weak.
Redistributing wealth is imperative.
Relativity is no boon to mankind.
Religion causes as many problems as it solves.
Remember you always have freedom of choice.
Repetition is the best way to learn.
Resolutions serve to ease our conscience.
Revolution begins with changes in the individual.
Romantic love was invented to manipulate women.
Routine is a link with the past.
Routine small excesses are worse than then the occasional debauch.
Sacrificing yourself for a bad cause is not a moral act.
Salvation can’t be bought and sold.
Self-awareness can be crippling.
Self-contempt can do more harm than good.
Selfishness is the most basic motivation.
Selflessness is the highest achievement.
Separatism is the way to a new beginning.
Sex differences are here to stay.
Sin is a means of social control.
Slipping into madness is good for the sake of comparison.
Sloppy thinking gets worse over time.
Solitude is enriching.
Sometimes science advances faster than it should.
Sometimes things seem to happen of their own accord.
Spending too much time on self-improvement is antisocial.
Starvation is nature’s way.
Stasis is a dream state.
Sterilization is a weapon of the rulers.
Strong emotional attachment stems from basic insecurity.
Stupid people shouldn’t breed.
Survival of the fittest applies to men and animals.
Symbols are more meaningful than things themselves.
Taking a strong stand publicizes the opposite position.
Talking is used to hide one’s inability to act.
Teasing people sexually can have ugly consequences.
Technology will make or break us.
The cruelest disappointment is when you let yourself down.
The desire to reproduce is a death wish.
The family is living on borrowed time.
The idea of revolution is an adolescent fantasy.
The idea of transcendence is used to obscure oppression.
The idiosyncratic has lost its authority.
The most profound things are inexpressible.
The mundane is to be cherished.
The new is nothing but a restatement of the old.
The only way to be pure is to stay by yourself.
The sum of your actions determines what you are.
The unattainable is invariable attractive.
The world operates according to discoverable laws.
There are too few immutable truths today.
There’s nothing except what you sense.
There’s nothing redeeming in toil.
Thinking too much can only cause problems.
Threatening someone sexually is a horrible act.
Timidity is laughable.
To disagree presupposes moral integrity.
To volunteer is reactionary.
Torture is barbaric.
Trading a life for a life is fair enough.
True freedom is frightful.
Unique things must be the most valuable.
Unquestioning love demonstrates largesse of spirit.
Using force to stop force is absurd.
Violence is permissible even desirable occasionally.
War is a purification rite.
We must make sacrifices to maintain our quality of life.
When something terrible happens people wake up.
Wishing things away is not effective.
With perseverance you can discover any truth.
Words tend to be inadequate.
Worrying can help you prepare.
You are a victim of the rules you live by.
You are guileless in your dreams.
You are responsible for constituting the meaning of things.
You are the past present and future.
You can live on through your descendants.
You can’t expect people to be something they’re not.
You can’t fool others if you’re fooling yourself.
You don’t know what’s what until you support yourself.
You have to hurt others to be extraordinary.
You must be intimate with a token few.
You must disagree with authority figures.
You must have one grand passion.
You must know where you stop and the world begins.
You can understand someone of your sex only.
You owe the world not the other way around.
You should study as much as possible.
Your actions are pointless if no one notices.
Your oldest fears are the worst ones.


The Old Wolf has spoken.

Bra problems that men won’t understand (but should)

I first saw this at BoredPanda. It’s a great collection of webcomics that most ♀-type people will relate to, and that any ♂-type person who wants a relationship with a ♀-type person should be aware of – because your significant other is (guaranteed!) dealing with any number of these issues. So guys, take note – and be sensitive.

I share it here in single-page format with correct attribution to the respective artists, so you don’t have to scroll through 12 pages of clickbait ads and deal with all the comments.

Image result for PG-13 Just because reasons.

This came to my attention via Paul Taylor, author of the inimitable Wapsi Square webcomic, and as a result I’ve put his own contribution to the cause first on the list. Plug: If you’ve never experienced Wapsi, it’s an wonderful [normal | paranormal] [slice of life | adventure  | mythology | coming-of-age | relationship challenges | self-esteem | body image] strip with strong female characters – difficult to describe, but very easy to enjoy.

Relatable-Funny-Bra-ComicsWapsi Square

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C. Cassandra Comics

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Wicked Reasoning

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Sarah’s Scribbles

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Sarah’s Scribbles

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Sarah’s Scribbles

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Sarah’s Scribbles

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C. Cassandra Comics

Relatable-Funny-Bra-ComicsLoryn Brantz

Relatable-Funny-Bra-ComicsGemma Correll

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womaniyeah

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Danielle Pioli

Relatable-Funny-Bra-ComicsUnclipped Adventure

Relatable-Funny-Bra-ComicsMaritsa Patrinos

Relatable-Funny-Bra-ComicsNatalya Lobanova

Relatable-Funny-Bra-ComicsBee

Relatable-Funny-Bra-ComicsMurzz Studio

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Sarah’s Scribbles

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Gemma Correll

Relatable-Funny-Bra-ComicsFlo Perry

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Flo Perry

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Whoiskasey

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Murzz Studio

Relatable-Funny-Bra-Comicsinyourfacecake

Relatable-Funny-Bra-ComicsWeinye

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Lillian Lai

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Shea Strauss

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Happyfluffcomics

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Sarah’s Scribbles

Relatable-Funny-Bra-ComicsAngela Mary Vaz

Relatable-Funny-Bra-ComicsCharlotte Gomez

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Kroov
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womaniyeah

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Becky Barnicoat

Relatable-Funny-Bra-ComicsMrs. Frollein

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Happyfluffcomics

Relatable-Funny-Bra-ComicsIrene Martini

Relatable-Funny-Bra-ComicsMeg Quinn – Artbymoga

Relatable-Funny-Bra-ComicsThe Princess Planet

Relatable-Funny-Bra-ComicsGemma Correll

Relatable-Funny-Bra-ComicsLuna Moreno

Relatable-Funny-Bra-ComicsAgustina Guerrero

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yeahitschill

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randomninjakitty

Relatable-Funny-Bra-ComicsGinger Haze

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Straycurls

Relatable-Funny-Bra-Comicsstickycomics

Relatable-Funny-Bra-ComicsBusty Girl Comics

Relatable-Funny-Bra-ComicsElectric Bunny Comics

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Busty Girl Comics

Relatable-Funny-Bra-ComicsPlanet Prudence

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Flo Perry

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Danielle Pioli

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Luyidraws

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Meg Quinn – Artbymoga

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Flo Perry

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Poetryinmocha

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Planet Prudence

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Becky Barnicoat

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Planet Prudence

Relatable-Funny-Bra-ComicsBra Garden

Relatable-Funny-Bra-ComicsBrustle

Relatable-Funny-Bra-ComicsRosalarian

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Luna Moreno

Relatable-Funny-Bra-Comicsda.di.dou

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da.di.dou

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Between Friends

Relatable-Funny-Bra-ComicsRiding in Cabs with Boys

Relatable-Funny-Bra-ComicsNatalie Dee

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Luna Moreno

Relatable-Funny-Bra-ComicsWowo Comics

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Wowo Comics

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randomninjakitty

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Flo Perry

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Luna Moreno

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Maritsa Patrinos

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Between Friends

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GoodBadComics

Relatable-Funny-Bra-ComicsCathy Wilcox

Relatable-Funny-Bra-ComicsEveryday People Cartoons

Relatable-Funny-Bra-ComicsHannah Hillam

Relatable-Funny-Bra-ComicsNinacosford

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Lillian Lai

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Renee Rienties

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Between Friends

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da.di.dou

Relatable-Funny-Bra-ComicsMom Comic

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Natalie Dee

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Luna Moreno

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da.di.dou

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Everyday People Cartoons

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da.di.dou

Relatable-Funny-Bra-ComicsAmelia Giller

Relatable-Funny-Bra-ComicsSavae

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Luna Moreno

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Boum

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Flo Perry

Relatable-Funny-Bra-ComicsThe Comical Cyanide

Relatable-Funny-Bra-ComicsSweet Corn and Lettuce

Relatable-Funny-Bra-ComicsChain Saw Suit

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Busty Girl Comics

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Ellemnop

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randomninjakitty

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chlove-art

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Cathy Wilcox

Relatable-Funny-Bra-ComicsCathy Wilcox

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randomninjakitty

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Everyday People Cartoons

 

What’s in a Logo?

Companies spend large money developing a logo that speaks to the world. They are an integral part of brand recognition – who in the world doesn’t recognize the Coca Cola logo, even if they don’t speak English or use Roman script?

Image result for coke logo

Who in the world doesn’t see the “golden arches” and immediately know that McDonald’s is close by?

08-mcdonalds-logo.w1200.h630

These logos and these brands are worth millions if not billions of dollars, and they are ferociously protected and actively marketed around the world.

Some logos, however, are more than eye-catching; they’re supremely clever, some from equally powerful companies and some from local enterprises.

amazon

Amazon, of course, ships everything from A to Z and a lot of stuff in between. The arrow, in addition, looks very much like a smile, suggesting how pleased you’ll be with your order. Just don’t talk to the people who work there – they’re not terribly happy with their job conditions.

Baskin Robbins

Baskin-Robbins prides itself on its 31 flavors (seen above in the logo) but not on their value as health food. Duh. John Robbins, son of founder and owner, left the empire for more wholesome pastures, and encouraged his father to step away from the inevitable when he got him to live a healthier lifestyle after the father had been diagnosed with diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Years before, partner Burt Baskin had died from a heart attack.

Anyone who grew up with black-and-white televisions and saw color for the first time probably saw the NBC “proud as a peacock” logo:

Today’s stylized logo retains the peacock, even if you have to look for a bit to find it:

CBS

One of the cleverest logo inclusions is the one FedEx (or their designer) came up with. They want you to know that your package is on the way, and so that little subliminal arrow helps you understand that they move stuff, and quickly.

FedEx1

Never seen that arrow? Here it is:

FedEx2

Spartan golf clubs are represented by a man with a powerful swing – but if you look at the entire picture in a different light, you see a Spartan warrior in profile with his iconic helmet.

Spartan

This is one of the most delightful recent designs I’ve seen, with a very creative use of positive and negative space – the swan, the mallard, and the ampersand (&) all combined into a very pleasing and evocative image. Artwork was created by John Randall.

Swan and Mallard

Ever look closely at the Toblerone logo? Seen the bear in that mountain? Berne, Switzerland, is notable for its bears, icon of the city.

Toblerone2

But wait, there’s more!

Toblerone

Yes, the home city of Toblerone is also found in the name.

Then there’s the Tostitos logo. Look closely and you’ll see two folks sitting at a table with salsa, sharing a tortilla chip.

Tostitos

Le Tour de France logo clearly represents a person on a bicycle, with one wheel yellow, probably evoking the yellow jersey that the winner gets to wear. Unless he’s outed for massive doping, but that’s another story.

Tour de France

The official Toyota explanation of their logo is as follows:

In 1990, Toyota debuted the three overlapping Ellipses logo on American vehicles. The Toyota Ellipses symbolize the unification of the hearts of our customers and the heart of Toyota products. The background space represents Toyota’s technological advancement and the boundless opportunities ahead.

But whether or not they intended it, the image has an additional fillip of intrigue:

Toyota

One of my earliest PC-type computers was a Vaio – and their logo is a brilliant blending of the analog computers of the past (represented by the sine wave seen on an oscilloscope ( and the digital computers of today, represented by the “1” and “0” of binary bits.

Vaio

Yoga Australia managed to work the shape of their homeland into the image of a young lady in a yoga pose – Oi oi oi, mates!
Yoga Australia

Lastly – and there are many others that I haven’t touched on in this post, but these were some of my favorites – is the logo for Hitachi, which I have written about in detail.

Hitachi was once one of the most well-known brands in electronics; for more about this fascinating logo, click through.

Naturally, there is the other end of the scale – logos which are awful for any number of reasons.

original

This one just hurts to look at because of the clashing colors.

Many of the ones which have been called out can’t be shared here, as I try to keep this blog on a family-friendly plane – but if you’re interested, just do an image search on “the world’s worst logos” and you’ll see what I mean.

Logos, like domain names, can contribute to the success or failure of an enterprise, which is why companies are willing to spend significant amounts having their logos designed. If the stars align, a logo can be a tremendous and memorable success.

The Old Wolf has spoken.


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Winter is Coming, whether HBO likes it or not.

Winter is Coming.jpg

This beautiful painting by a 13-year-old girl, who just happens to have some autism to deal with, was posted at the arts and crafts site, RedBubble. She called it “Winter is Coming.”

Lawyers at HBO, afraid that this image and its appurtenant title would do irreparable harm to their beloved Game of Thrones¹, sent a takedown letter, which RedBubble  – sadly – immediately complied with.

I’m not so charitable. HBO is a douchebag, and these lawyers are douchebags. They can all go sit on a cactus. Sit down hard, on a cactus, and spin.

cactus

You see, lawyers and corporations think they can patent or trademark anything to “protect shareholder value.” Well, winter is coming whether they like it or not. It will arrive on December 21st this year.

What are you going to do, boys and girls: sue the calendar?

Grow up and get a life.

The Old Wolf has spoken.


¹ With respect to George R. R. Martin, whose work has inspired a huge following, I’ve never seen the show, and couldn’t get past Chapter 1 of the first book. It just didn’t resonate with me.

Amhaeng-eosa: The Secret Shopper of the 16th Century

Around about the time my wife was 11 years old, her mother acquired a set of what she referred to as “brass coasters.” There were five of them, but over the course of years since 1967, and through many moves, all but one was lost.

coin

Each coaster had a different number of horses, from one to five. My wife told me that she’d really love to have the complete set again, and so I put it out there to my Facebook community, and as fortune would have it, one of my long-time friends – and one intimately acquainted with Korea – recognized it. He wrote to me:

“It’s called a Map’ae (馬牌); it was issued to undercover government inspectors during Korea’s Yi Dynasty. [Note: the Jeoseon dynasty was founded by Yi Seonggye]. These secret inspectors were charged with roaming the countryside to ferret out corrupt officials. The number of horses imprinted on the Map’ae equaled the number of horses the inspector was authorized to commandeer from state stables located throughout the country. A 5-horse inspector was a powerful man and could pronounce death sentences on high provincial officials (high government officials in the central government had to be tried by a specially convened tribunal).”

With this, I was able to find out that in English these are called “Horse Warrants,” and through a wonderful bit of synchronic serendipity, I located a single set for sale on eBay:

Map'ae

My wife was, as can be expected, surprised and delighted that I had been able to find something that for her had great sentimental value, and indeed, so quickly.

A bit of research gave me a lot more information about these curiosities. From Wikipedia:

The secret royal inspector, or Amhaeng-eosa (암행어사, 暗行御史, Ombudsman) was a temporary position unique to Joseon Dynasty, in which an undercover official directly appointed by the king was sent to local provinces to monitor government officials and look after the populace while traveling incognito. Unlike regular inspectors whose activities under Office of Inspector General were official and public, the appointment and activities of secret royal inspectors were kept strictly secret throughout the mission.

My friend outlined for me the structure of the script on the back:

The Chinese characters read, from right to left, the name of the ministry to which the secret inspectors were attached; the top two characters of the second column are the name of the holder, followed by the character for name. The next three characters specify that the medallion is a three horse medallion. The final column indicate that the medallion was struck in March of 1623 (note that the Koreans used the Ming reign date to designate the year–a common practice in Yi Dynasty Korea) To the far left, of course, is the royal seal.

Position Description

The royal inspectors were sent out with letters of appointment (bongseo, 봉서), a description of their destination and mission (samok, 사목), and “horse requisition tablet” called mapae(마패), which they used to requisite horses and men from a local station run by the central government. The would carry out their inspection in secret, and then reveal themselves with bongseo or map’ae and perform an audit, the results of which were reported back to the king.

This was an extremely dangerous job, with – according to some historians – a survival rate of only around 30%. They often fell victim to assassins sent by corrupt officials, bandits, or wild animals – and they had to pay their own expenses before being reimbursed by the king. Young men were generally selected, along the lines of the apocryphal advertisement for the Pony Express: “Orphans preferred.”

How-you-recruit-a-horseman

Originals of these Map’ei are worth thousands of dollars and clearly belong in museums, but I’m pleased that through a happy confluence of circumstances I was able to restore one of my wife’s early memories, and learn an intriguing tidbit about Korean history at the same time.

The Old Wolf has spoken.