Sunday, 24 February 2013

500 T-shirts: My favourite designs [2 of 2]

Hello! This is the follow-up to Part 1 blog post about my own favourite T-shirt designs so far. You can see (and buy) all my designs here on Redbubble. Onwards!

Feeling Philoslothical

This is a new meme which has popped up - it's not that widespread, and maybe it won't ever go viral. But sloths are an awesome creature which have long been overlooked by the internet, and they deserve some attention. Huzzah for sloths!

Belgium Has Freedom!

Here's a fun design with a political background. There's an awesome video on the internet called "The most honest three and a half minutes of television, EVER", which is a scene from the TV show The Newsroom. Jeff Daniels' character goes on a monologue/rant to say why the United States is not the greatest country in the world - and includes the fantastic line, "Canada has freedom, Japan has freedom, the UK, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Australia, Belgium has freedom." For me, this struck a huge chord about the emptiness of much patriotism and nationalism. So this a political design, which is also a motivational T-shirt for Belgians.

Plesiosaur: End Nuclear Testing Now

The inspiration for this comes from the early Terry Pratchett book "Strata", where a terraformer (person who makes terrain for new planets) sneaks a plesiosaur into the fossil record, holding up a sign saying "End Nuclear Testing Now". The strange thing is, the book was published in 1981, but I've never seen a drawing made of this idea. Until now!

Unicorn Pegasus Zebra Seahorse

ALL the horses! All put together in one cute design. I may like politics and sci-fi and weird stuff, but sometimes I just make cute designs.

Phanezoroic Aeons, Eras, Ages

Let me take you to geeky town! I like replicating diagrams with an artistic or design twist. Here are the eras and ages that fall under the Phanerozoic aeon, which is the latest and current aeon in Earth's history. I really wanted to get the Pre-Cambrian on here too, but it basically makes the Phanerozoic look like a dot. I also wanted to include the Holocene epoch (our current and present epoch, the epoch of humans), but as you can see by the follow-up design, our little 12,000ish years are the tiniest little dot in comparison!

I Love Dinosaurs - T-Rex

This is the T-shirt which kind of started it all. It's not my very first T-shirt design, but it's from the first batch of designs (I <3 Insert Dinosaur Here) which were bought by complete strangers, through the internet, from somewhere else on the planet. This was a key moment for me in moving from making designs purely for my own music and books, to creating designs deliberately intended for T-shirts.

NZ Music Moth

This is an insect-related spoof of the distinct NZ Music Month design which is often seen on black T-shirts in New Zealand, especially around NZ Music Month itself (May, in case you were wondering). Huzzah for moths! Especially massive NZ moths!

I Survived The Rapture But Not The Raptors

One of my many rapture and apocalypse T-shirts. There was the rapture of May 2011, the rapture of Oct 2011, the Mayan apocalypse of Dec 2012 ... there will always be an end of the world coming up!

Where Do All The Calculators Go?

Inspired by a joke from the British sci-fi comedy Red Dwarf. I grew up with Red Dwarf, so it's very close to my heart. The context is that the service robot Kryten is being replaced by a newer model, but he is happy, because he believes in the robot afterlife. When challenged about this, he asks, well where do all the calculators go?

Mermaids Against Starbucks

Yes this design is satire/parody, but I like it mainly because it's silly fun!

Fainting Goats

Fainting goats was one of the very first videos I saw on the internet, back in 2005 (ish), before I'd even heard of Youtube. These days the internet is full of funny animal videos, but this was one of the very first of the modern internet age. So, I like this design for its origins, but also for its simplicity and effectiveness.


Straight out of my childhood. There are only a few colours and simple shapes, but they clearly convey 1) cute little rodents of some kind, and 2) iconic symbols of the Lemmings computer game, the red backpack (and blocks) and the red/white striped umbrella. Love it.

Pie and Pi Pirates

I have a series of Pi & Pie T-shirts - they've become like little characters to me! This is the design that kicked it off - a very simple pun on the words "pi" and "pie" and "pi-rate". I own a T-shirt with this design, and I find it funny how many people don't get it, because they assume there must be something clever or deep and meaningful that they're not getting.

Incidentally, a friend back in the UK got a tattoo of Pi Pirate, which I was over the moon about!

Backstreet Boys Questionnaire

This is a great example of an amusing text-only design. The thing about text is that while it's not as instant as a picture, people are curious - they want to read it. So hopefully, if you're familiar with the Backstreet Boys' "Everybody" (spin through to 2:17 for the lyrics), you and your friends and even random strangers will be chuckling away.

One Does Not Simply Walk Into Mordor

A series of T-shirts based on the meme, "One does not simply walk into Mordor", a line spoken by Boromir (Sean Bean). The two ironies of the phrase are that 1) the hobbits did indeed just walk into Mordor, and 2) they should have just taken the damn flying eagles in the first place! On second thoughts...

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Airfix Democracies - Album Remastered

Here is my album "Airfix Demcoracies", remastered to sound clearer and better. As always it's a free download, so go right ahead:

I knew when it was released that the tracks didn't sound quite like they should. So the last couple of months has been interesting (and frustrating) journey of teaching myself about compression, limiters, and mastering in general.

I do feel bad for everyone who already downloaded the album, especially those who donated some money for it too. It wasn't my intention to make you download everything again - I'll try and make it up to you somehow.

Here's some thoughts about the process and end result:
  • The tracks are not as loud as I'd have like them to be*
  • However, this is a bright, summer rock album, so a lighter production fit the best
  • I'm still restricted by my skills, equipment and software
  • They are much clearer than the original tracks released in Oct 2012, but not necessarily louder, since the original tracks have lots of peaking** (which is not cool at all)
  • Maybe one day I'll get a proper recording engineer to mix & master them. Maybe...
  • I've learnt a hell of a lot, and I'm feeling a lot happier about mixing and mastering my next recording!

* "Loudness", i.e. a song sounds literally louder than another song when they are played at the same volume on the same speakers.***

** There is a maximum volume limit, or ceiling, for mixing/mastering: 0dB. "Peaking" is when the volume goes louder than this, and can't be processed by the stereo/amplifier/speakers, and is turned into noise.***

*** Over the decades, there has been an arms race to make recordings louder, so that your recording will sound louder (and more noticeable) than others when played on the radio, TV, etc. etc. This has been called the Loudness Wars.
The trick to making recordings louder is using up more of the space available under the 0dB ceiling, usually with the use of compressors and limiters. The drawback of making recordings louder is a reduction in dynamic range, i.e. there is less difference between quiet parts and loud parts of a song. This has resulted in trickery being used to make quiet parts of a song (e.g. verse) seem quieter than the louder parts (e.g. chorus) when in fact both are pushing up against the 0dB ceiling.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Flashes: The Stick.

Maka's nostrils flared wide at his opponent, his voice a snarlscape of its own.

'You don't belong here!' His yellow teeth stood proud of his gums. 'You're evil!'

Uamala, his foe, threw his hands in the air and roared to all those watching. 'This is my tribe! I made this tribe!'

'You killed that little girl!'

'She was a witch and you know it! We all know it!' He screeched at the surrounding jungle, appealing to everyone watching. They stood back; some had tried to intervene, interfere, or even go after Uamala themselves. But the older men knew this was a matter for the rivals. The death of the little girl was sad, but this was a battle that would be played out sooner or later.

It was Maka who made the first lunge, and it was a good one too. His fingers grabbed Uamala's arms, and they both tumbled sideways in the dirt as his teeth took out a chunk of Uamala's shoulder.

But Uamala was pumped on hormones and fury, and his instincts had no desire for defence. His left hand went straight for Maka's neck, and his grip tightened so hard that the fingers and thumb nearly touched each other.

Soon Maka's arms went from wild blows to desperate flailing. Uamala won the better physical position and he pinned Maka to the ground, hand still violating Maka's neck. 'I will kill you,' he screeched, eyes furious. 'I will eat you!'

Maka thrashed on the ground, running out of air. His vision blurred. Uamala's fingertips tensed further, nails digging in, ready to rip out his throat.

Then Maka's right hand found something.

He still wasn't sure what it was, as Uamala gave the loudest screech Maka had ever heard, blood spurting from his neck. But his brain didn't need to catch up. Gasping on new air and kicking Uamala backwards, he stood up and stabbed again and again and again, sometimes missing, sometimes wounding. Uamala was in agony and unsteady, and one more strike to the face sent him howling to the ground. Then Maka stabbed him in the face until the face was unrecognisable, then more until he was dead.

The tribe lost their minds. All around, people screamed protests, confusion; it was an unfair fight; it was a victory; it was an abomination. But none of them approached, none of them came towards Maka, as he held the dead tree branch with Uamala's blood all over the jagged end.

'I won!' yelled Maka, jumping up and down, waving his weapon. 'Uamala is dead! I won!'

Then, time coasted gently to a halt. The jungle slowed and became dark; the frantic tribespeople drifted gently in mid yell - mouths open, eyes crazed - as though swimming in heavy water.

Maka looked up, and saw her. She was magical: pure white, strangely beautiful, with a thin nose and thin arms and black eyes. She floated among the trees, like a magical alien-bird-woman without wings.

Her eyes narrowed.

'The wrong man won.'

And Maka died.

The alien-bird-woman sighed, gently.

'Start again,' she whispered, and clicked her fingers.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Gender rules for Valentine's Day

Please enjoy this rather cynical, sarcastic post about gender roles in the yearly transaction-based event we call "Valentine's Day".

Rule #1 - Gifts are strictly man --> woman

Women are not allowed to buy things for men. I've never, ever heard about a man getting excited about what his female partner bought him. I've never seen men get flowers delivered to their workplace. Yet Facebook is alive and buzzing with girls' vintage-filtered Hipstagram pictures of flowers and chocolates from their male partner.

Rule #2 - Only flowers, chocolates and cards are permitted as gifts

Valentine's Day is about expressing love in the most narrow, commercial way possible, and apparently this = flowers, cards and chocolates. I did see a jokey Facebook post about cheese being preferable to chocolate, which I applaud just for being different, even though it does pander to 1) the stereotype of women liking cheese*, and therefore 2) Rule #1 where Valentine's Day is about men buying women things, not vice versa.

Other items are only allowed as gifts if they are totally over-the-top and/or utterly useless, e.g. jewellery, anything with lace, a teddy bear that says "I wuv you!" when squeezed, etc.

Rule #3 - A gift must be given

At least one of chocolates/flowers/card must be given, by the man to the woman, or else ... I'm not sure, maybe the Elder Gods of Heteronormity will come and destroy us, or something.

Going out for dinner is an acceptable action on Valentine's Day, however on its own it does not suffice as a gift.

Even couples who agree in advance that they won't buy each other anything (out of some vain attempt at being modern or enlightened) still have to buy something, because no-one is immune from the deep gnawing awkwardness of not fulfilling social expectation (see below).

Here are some rough suspicions/theories I have worked out.
  • Valentine's Day is about smooshy, romantic love (not ordinary, real, genuine love. Get a hold of yourself!), which is apparently feminine. Therefore guys do not like it and get embarrassed about being on the receiving end of it, if not being part of the whole thing altogether.
  • Flowers are also feminine, therefore dudes do not like receiving flowers. They're either not interested in flowers, or will actively resist being given flowers as a sign of being feminine.
  • Nobody asked for Valentine's Day - it just happens at people, like a big impersonal blob turning up on your doorstep every year demanding money**. Therefore chocolates/flowers/cards have become the safe standard currency for the Valentine's Day transaction.
    • Both partners know that the guy can buy chocs/flowers/card, and the girl can receive them, as the universally-recognised, safe, minimum way of fulfilling the transaction/dance they are required to carry out.
    • If the man does not buy anything, or the woman does not accept/enjoy it, they have not performed their role in the ritual, exposing both partners to embarrassment and ridicule by each other and (more importantly) by friends, colleagues & others.
    • If either of them does something original - e.g. the man buys her something practical, or the woman buys him anything - they are still exposed to risk of awkwardness and embarrassment in case their partner is not pleased, and/or (more importantly) it is considered strange or weird by friends, family, colleagues etc.
  • Men are entitled to be a creep by buying Valentine gifts for one or several female friends. The acceptable female reaction is that this is "sweet" and "nice", rather than "creepy" and "questionable". As with couples, girls are not allowed to buy male friends any gifts, romantic or otherwise.
Same-sex relationships
You'll notice that these rules and the above waffle don't account for same-sex relationships. This is mainly out of a lack of data/evidence on my part. However, I suspect that Valentine's Day is so steeped in heterosexual gender stereotypes that, happily, gay couples are allowed to do whatever the hell they like.

In case you're wondering...
If this blog post has filled you with rage, or the sarcastic bits weren't obvious, my apologies for not being clear. I'm a cantankerous old modernist. I dislike gender stereotypes and pointless traditional social rituals***, even the socially-acceptable ones, and especially the ones I sign up to myself. If I say "girls are like this, boys are like this" it's a) mainly sarcastic, made in the knowledge that people are genuinely individual different people regardless of what sex/gender they are (and that this is obvious), and b) a sweeping self-aware generalisation based on the fact that most people really do sign up to gender stereotypes.****

I guess it's hard to do something "different" on Valentine's Day, because the very day itself is about a narrow version of romantic love. Do something different, like going paintballing or having an art party, and suddenly it's got nothing to do with Valentine's Day any more.

My ideal Valentine's Day is one where it doesn't exist, and women aren't patronised, and nobody worries about it, because it doesn't exist.

I'm sure there's lots of people "breaking" the "rules" out there. In many countries, this is one of the most fascinating, creative and interesting times to be a human being, and every year it seems to get even more creative and different and free. On the other hand, I'm sad that during such an exciting time, outdated gender stereotypes are so widespread, and stubborn, and don't seem to be going anywhere.

Oh, one final rule - on no account are you allowed to express romantic love on any other day of the year.

Happy Valentine's Day! x

* I must admit this is a stereotype with a lot of weight behind it. I cannot remember meeting a single girl or woman who didn't have a overly enthusiastic attitude towards cheese. Maybe I've met some and cheese was just never discussed?

** In my mind, the Valentine Blob is standing there, dripping goo all over your doorstep, and says, "Hey, do you happen to have about a tree fiddy?" Every. Year.

*** Like many traditional social rituals, the Valentine's Day we know was created very recently, going back far shorter into history than everyone believes it did. The same goes for white wedding dresses, romantic love itself, and marriage having anything to do with religion.

**** People say "you can't make generalisations". Well, stuff that. I make generalisations because in order to challenge things we need to accept that they exist.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

So ... how long do you allow for your flight?

I don't miss flights. Domestic, international, interplanetary, intergalactic, any kind at all.
I. Do. Not. Miss. Flights.

Nelson airport on a nice sunny day
This means I spend a lot of time waiting at airports - even in little old New Zealand airports, where waiting is not normal...

Dear reader, a question for you: How do you feel about catching flights? How do you approach them?

I recently returned from a little holiday with friends to the beautiful Abel Tasman region, northwest tip of the South Island. This required possibly the shortest flight in the whole country: 35mins, Wellington to Nelson. If there was a land bridge connecting the two cities, it's doubtful I'd pay for flights, or that they'd even exist in the first place.

So, for 2 reasons, my friend and I arrived at Wellington airport a full 2 hours before our little domestic flight departed. This is apparently A Crime. My friend had something like 17 appointments planned during this time, which had included tea with another friend, who happened to be a former travel agent and proceeded to send me a series of text messages in what I can only describe as An Intervention.

I did feel a little bit silly - Reason #1 for being early was allowing 1hr for a 40min bus ride that is actually 20mins. Note that I do not feel silly allowing 1hr for a 40min bus journey, in case of traffic, engine failure, jellyfish on the road, whatever. (In the UK, public transport is so sketchy I'd probably have allowed 90mins.*) I just felt mildly silly that a bus ride I've taken at least twice a year, every year, for 4 years, takes half as long as I thought it did. Oh well...

The other reason is that I Do Not Miss Flights.

Ever since my round-the-world trip as a little 19-year-old Jezo Kempo - where I took 17 flights in total, through strange places like the Cook Islands and Mongolia and Heathrow - I have a philosophy of making absolutely sure I am ready for my flight in time. Not "at the airport before the plane takes off" - I'm talking checked in with time to spare, in the right terminal with time to spare, at the right gate with time to spare. This means allowing extra time for every step of my journey, just to get to the airport, in case one of those steps goes wrong. Because I ain't missing my flight.

Also, I come from a certain place - Europe - where we:

  1. often take international flights, which require much more check-in time than domestic flights. And,
  2. are brutalised into accepting long queues for everything. I once had to wait stock-still for 60minutes in a crowded corridor at Stansted airport, around midnight, after flying back from Slovakia ... to get back into my own country. It took less time to get into Slovakia.

The giant Gollum in Wellington airport
Cut to New Zealand. New Zealand has 3 types of airport:
  • Sprawling, boring Auckland (and slightly less sprawling Christchurch);
  • Cute, medium-sized Wellington (now with added Gollum!); and
  • Regional airports, which are basically one large room with an entrance on one side and the gate on the other. "Baggage collection" often means finding your suitcase sitting on the pavement by the road outside.
And so, a clash of approaches. In New Zealand, you catch a plane like you catch the bus. You catch a bus or a taxi an hour before your flight. (Ish.) You check in half an hour before, maybe 20mins, no bother. There's minimal or no security for domestic flights. You get to your gate when boarding starts, maybe 10-15mins before it trundles off for take-off.

This horrifies me.

NZ is casual and laidback, but there are limits. Sometimes it feels as though you might hear over the intercom, as the plane taxis to the runway: "Sorry guys, we're just waiting for our co-pilot Stevo, he's been surfing and is meeting us with his togs*** on". But this doesn't actually happen. You can't miss your flight and just catch the next plane****. No-one is flagging down planes on the runway to see if there's a couple of spare seats in the back, and would the pilot mind dropping them off at New Plymouth, since it's just on the way?

Fine, I admit it, I admit everything. I love waiting at airports.

I don't love the waiting. There's enough of that on the plane. And I certainly don't love airports - not even Wellington with its Gollum, not even quaint little Nelson.****

But just as I secretly love being on a plane***** because time is out of your hands and there's no work to do, I love being at an airport with time to spare, because I know I things are Under Control, they are Going To Plan. And whatever stupid boring time has to pass before I queue up to get on the plane, I know I'm Not Going To Miss My Flight.

So, back to you, dear reader. What is your approach to catching flights? What is your mindset when you're doing so - are you relaxed, cautious, anxious? What experiences have you had? Does your home/original country affect how you think about it? Leave a comment, if you like.


* Sometimes I feel like the motto of the UK should be "Dieu Et Mon Bus Replacement Service".
** With Jetstar NZ, there is often no "next plane" to catch.

*** "Togs", as in swimsuit, board shorts, budgie smugglers, etc.
**** I do actively hate some airports. Heathrow is a suicide-inducing abomination. The nicest compliment you can give Stansted is that it's "functional".
***** Secret even to me, sometimes. 28hrs on AirAsia very nearly killed me.

Monday, 11 February 2013

500 T-shirts: My favourite designs [1 of 2]

I've recently cracked 500 designs on Redbubble, so I thought I'd show my personal favourite designs so far and give some background behind both a) these designs themselves, and b) my processes and thoughts behind designing in general. There's a good mix of fun, silly, serious, political, and surreal, and most of them are rather funny too - you can read all the blurbs or just enjoy the pretty pictures. Feel free to buy one too!

This is Part 1 of 2, here's the link to Part 2!

Never Get Involved In A Land War In Asia

A classic mash-up - the famous quote from The Princess Bride, mixed with the world map from the Risk board game. The phrase reminded me of Eddie Izzard's excellent sketch about Risk: "Cause, you know, playing Risk, you could never hold on to Asia. That Asian-Eastern European area, you could never hold it, could you? Seven extra men at the beginning of every go, but you couldn't fucking hold it." And lo, a mash-up was born!

Street Fighter II Dinosaurs

I've got a lot of dinosaur T-shirts, which is no surprise - however this and the first design stand out to me. Street Fighter II was a classic arcade game of my childhood - only playable on those huge hulking great arcade machines in shopping centres and bowling alleys - so it was a simple step to put dinosaurs in the position of the distinctive characters.


A classic example of a simple design, almost a logo, expressing something complicated and fun at the same time.

Superb Owl

This is one of 2 Superb Owl designs I've made (here's the other one). I'm rather pleased the Superb Owl meme is picking up. Owls enjoy sports too!

You And I Must Fight For Our Rights

This is a line from the amazing outro of the amazing Muse "Knights Of Cydonia" (which also has an amazing video). My idea was to host a series of rock nights raising awareness of human rights and civil liberties (in the UK and abroad) with this title and artwork. Unfortunately there was only one, but the design still stands by itself in my view: the twin hands of rock and revolution, crossed in unity.

International Economy "Winter Boyfriend" artwork

This was a combined effort from me and my awesome bandmate Chiara LaRotonda - together we are International Economy. We needed artwork for our song "Winter Boyfriend"; Chiara mentioned an idea she had, and lo! Photoshop did provide. It's cute and fun, just like the song, and one of my favourite musical art designs that I've made.

Do Androids Dream of Androids Dreaming of Electric Sheep? (Blade Runner vs. Android vs. Inception)

It's a 3-way mash-up! I love this design, because it takes things that one step further. You have the Android logo, dreaming of Android sheep (reference to Blade Runner and the Philip K. Dick book "Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?"). But then it's all wrapped up in layers of dreams like Inception. So meta!

Dinosaur Riding Jesus

Turning an internet meme on its head! For many years, Jesus has been seen on the internet riding a dinosaur - so I thought it was time the dinosaur got a turn riding Jesus. With lasers, obviously.

Which One's The Lesbian?

This is a cracker with a good solid message. I'm very sad to say I haven't sold any of these (yet), but it's still one of my favourites.

So Once When I Was Six I Did (Pi film quote)

This one is inspired by the fantastic 1998 film Pi. The film is shot in a very interesting style, black and white, with many phrases and actions repeating through the film, including "Restate my assumptions" and the distinctive phrase above.

One Less Car (Squid)

A very silly design. Not really much to explain!

Nighttime Daytime Bird

Some of my designs are inspired by the world of Funny Videos I Saw On The Youtube, including this lovely diagram of Nighttime Daytime Bird's favourite game.

How To Overdose On Homeopathy

Homeopathy is a sham and a farce. The idea is that the more diluted a potion is, the more powerful it is (even when the active ingredient is no longer there, and it's just water). So this design is based on extending that idea to its natural conclusion - if you want to overdose on homeopathic "medicine", stand a long way away and take nothing at all!

Epic Mythical Creatures Chart

This is one of my most intricate designs and probably took the most amount of work - firstly in research, secondly in the re-working of the design through several different versions. It's not 100% watertight - you can read the full explanation and notes on the design's description - but it is a very comprehensive diagram of the component animals that make up mythical creatures and characters. Bizarrely, I got a comment from Dylan Carline, one of the designers behind this 2009 diagram here which inspired me to create a comprehensive mythical creatures chart.

More to come in blog post #2!