Joe Crawford makes things on the web. Contact
Geographic summary:
San Diego→Los Angeles→Philippines→New Orleans→San Diego→Roanoke→Charlottesville→Los Angeles→San Diego→Moorpark→Roanoke

January, 2011: 36 posts.

Tumblr, continued.

Well, hello, happy new year. It’s time to get back in the swing of things after a long hiatus.

Back in March of last year, I wrote a long piece about Chris and I blogging over at nuevaciudad.tumblr.com. Well, We have not stopped. Just assume the good posts are all by Chris and not me. It’s a hodgepodge of science fiction, futures past, design, entertainment with an SF slant, and other ephemera we enjoy.

I really enjoy Tumblr, despite their recent extended, embarrassing downtime. It’s really about curation, you know. Back when I posted about tumblr last year, nobody was using it. I wonder if any more of you are using it since then?

The death, slowly, of things like LiveJournal depresses me. Facebook really is wonderful, but it really does not allow for the same kind of personalization and publication as the older school blogging tools did. Then again, there are so many more people using the web to express themselves, it makes sense that we come online in tribes, and why not have everyone go to the same place so we can all talk to each other? But the roach motel aspect of it–content goes in–hard to let it be shared more broadly–it worries me that it’s all on one domain.

We’ve been tumblr-ing for 16 months now. I expect it to continue. Though I do make regular backups with their Mac app.

ArtLung, 2011

More noodling (since this noodling) with Illustrator.


Anecdote of the Day

Fragment from Bruce Sterling:

I once had a long bus-ride with a reeking, sweaty, jittery madman who had clearly once been a formidably intelligent and very well-read scholar. It seemed pretty clear to me that it had been a long time since anybody had been able to indulge him in a conversation. Although, he couldn’t really “converse,” because his cognitive deficits no longer allowed him a coherent train of thought. There was something pitiful yet majestic about that guy. He was like a fragmentary Roman ruin.

He brought it up after reading about the incident of murder and attempted assassination of Gabrielle Giffords. As a person who dealt with a small number of schizophrenics working at the public library, then a rather larger share working in hospitals, it evokes many memories. Aged men, ailing, incoherent, emitting fragments of fascinating talk. I never had much time for them, I had work to do, and even when treating them, when my task was over, the “conversations” ended.

My wish for this country is that we can tone down the rhetoric. Sarah Palin will take the brunt of this criticism, and that is fair. She has been a firebrand, prideful about her ownership and firing of guns, her salesmen use gun and shooting words “DON’T RETREAT, RELOAD” and using gunsights as map markers against competitors is just no good. It’s consistent with the very violent history of this country, sadly. My hope is that we can work together and fix what ails the country without shouting or shooting at each other. Now is not the time for a violent revolution. It’s just not. Anyone who uses this kind of rhetoric needs to be told to tone it down. There’s enough death and violence in the world without using it in politics.

The Power of Graphic Design: Politics

Sneak Preview of the Cover of The Stranger This Week, Created by Dan Savage and Aaron Huffman

The power of graphic design to communicate sometimes rattles me to my core.


For some reason this video–Fancy by Reba McEntire–has stuck with me as a kitsch cheese masterpiece since I first saw it maybe 20 years ago. The song and I think the video too were released in 1990. It is over-the-top melodrama and until I looked it up, I had no idea it was a cover of a song from 1969, by Bobbie Gentry.

For some reason the refrain:

Here’s your one chance Fancy don’t let me down!

…has become a funny line I can amuse myself/annoy myself (and my wife) with. I may have had the song on my iPod as a joke at one point. I don’t have it anymore. Too much annoyance now. But whenever I see Reba or am put face to face with melodrama, I think of it. It’s like an avatar of earnest, outlandish bathos.

And now I have inflicted it on you, should you choose to watch or listen to it.

Memorial in Arizona

Speech by President Obama.

Mile High

Back at Thanksgiving, I got a chance to carry around my Mom’s iPod Touch while travelling. During that time I experimented with Foursquare (which I had some time back) and Gowalla. One of the things I did was mention I was on a plane in a tweet, and I got many twitter replies from random people in Indonesia asking me to help them get the Mile High badge.

I didn’t know much what to think of it, and more or less ignored it. But on the return flight I asked those folks who asked a) how would I do this and b) what would they give me for it. The answer to a) was that they would give me their usernames and passwords and just trust me, and b) was that they didn’t have much to offer, but that if I ever came to Indonesia they could give me good tips.

As near as I can figure, some folks really love Foursquare and play it as a game. They treat the badges as collectibles and are willing to go pretty far, but not too far, to get each and every badge.

It was a great example to me of how compelling “gamification” can be:

Gamification is the use of game play mechanics for non-game applications (also known as “funware”), particularly consumer-oriented web and mobile sites, in order to encourage people to adopt the applications. It also strives to encourage users to engage in desired behaviors in connection with the applications. Gamification works by making technology more engaging, and by encouraging desired behaviors, taking advantage of humans’ psychological predisposition to engage in gaming. – source: Wikipedia

I don’t have much more to say about it, but games and game mechanics have been on my mind for awhile, and particularly since I saw Jesse Schell’s talk in February last year. It’s worth reposting here.

Warren Ellis Notices Massive Sqwertz

Well this is cool: Warren Ellis noticed Brett’s article “How to sell your book or comic for the iPad & iPhone without Apple’s help.” Warren Ellis is pretty awesome.

You may remember Massive Sqwertz as the site I did the theme for. I also read and enjoy it. You can follow Massive Sqwertz too: @massivesqwertz.


It’s rather hard to believe that it was only 13 months ago my Mom, Leah and I were going to see the film Precious at a local movie theater. Sometimes it seems utterly impossible that she won’t be going to see the latest Oprah-endorsed film with us. Perhaps we’d go to Roadhouse afterwards. Perhaps she’d say that she really liked the film, but it was rather more intense than she expected.

Altogether the feeling of missing my Mother remains sporadic and inconsistent and gut-wrenching. Seeing an item of hers, or a bit of her handwriting, or hearing a song she loved on the PA at a store, or nearly anything can trigger it. Or sometimes, it’s not even triggered. Sometimes the emotion attendant to missing my mother kicks me in the teeth, sometimes it just seems vaguely sad, sometimes it just feels like an error. “I’m sorry, did you say ‘my mother is dead?’–because I’m afraid you’re mistaken, we just ate lunch with her the other day.”

But reality will out, always. That’s hard.

We had my parent’s handyman fix the toilet yesterday. First time seeing him since my Mom passed. He asked me “where’s your Mother’s attitude in you?” He’s a blunt man, but the question is worthwhile. I’ve been down in the mouth and making a habit of it does nobody any good.

So I’ll press on and try and make the change I talked about in November.

The Best Life A Pot Can Have

Joe Bennion has a beautiful post over on his blog: The baking dish. It’s about different ways to work. Here’s the crucial bit:

…he and I work differently to get to the same point. His approach involves a series of thumbnail sketches and maquettes, from which one is chosen to be executed full scale. I work by making a lot of pieces in series (read: production work), without a lot of conscious thought given to each individual piece. After the firing I will select the one or two that have that “thing” that I can’t articulate but recognize when I pick them up and examine them with my eyes and my hands.

And here’s the pot:

And here’s the dish from back in 1985, featured in a NCECA show catalog:

A piece of art that is also functional. Awesome.

I miss the love of craft. I miss putting in the work. I can find those things if I look.

That Time When My URL Appeared On The TV Show Bones

In August of last year I got an email from a fellow who was watching Bones on Netflix, and, well, here’s what they said:

Hi Joe,

You don’t know me, and I don’t know you, but I saw something odd in a fraction of a second on a TV show, and it lead me to writing this e-mail.

I was watching Netflix on a tiny screen while working, and this one scene shows a character “searching the web” using AOL. For whatever reason, the PREVIOUS address the character was looking at was still showing, and out of curiosity I froze and captured the screen (attached JPEG).

It was your web site! Isn’t that odd?
Okay, maybe it isn’t and you know all about this because you prepare prop screens for TV shows and I’m just a dullard.

Anyway, the show was BONES, season 1, episode 9 “The Man in the Fallout Shelter”
Your web site URL can be seen at 31:50 into the show.

And I replied with this:

You just blew my mind.

Just logged into Netflix and saw the same thing. Thanks for the great instructions.

I don’t do anything with the entertainment business right now. I used to work with some interactive firms who built public websites, but never have I worked on displays targeted for tv.

Here’s the screenshot.

UPDATE 2021: I had a gallery of screenshots of my website I put up in 2004. One of them was a screenshot of how it looked in AOL 4. I think the person doing the screen graphics work used that image as the basis for the web surfing montage. My domain was left in the url bar. Voila!

Comics and the Law

In about 1985, at San Diego Comic-Con, I received a free copy of the weekly Comic Buyer’s Guide (Wikipedia says it’s the longest running English-language periodical reporting on the American comic book industry). I got myself a subscription and I was hooked.

It was a tabloid, newsprint at the time. But I loved getting that in the mail every week. One of my favorite parts of CPG was the column “The Law Is A Ass*” by Bob Ingersoll. That it is online is new to me, but you can apparently read some of those old columns at http://www.worldfamouscomics.com/law/. I’m hoping some of the old 1980s material is in there as well. The column took legal issues in the comics seriously. It would address things like “what legal recourse would I have if my car was crushed by the Hulk” and such. Sometimes they would take reader questions, and sometimes they would discuss current story arcs.

I’m delighted to read an interview with James Daily and Ryan Davidson. James and Ryan are two lawyers who created a blog in November 2010 called Law and the Multiverse, and they seek to cover similar ground. Want a discussion of superpowered minors entering into contracts? I’m hooked.

“The Law Is A Ass” was named from a line in Oliver Twist

Miserable sick

I currently have the flu, bigtime. Correspondence is at zero. I’ll try and catch up later today and tomorrow. I regret the lack of communication but hope to catch up soon.

Interview with Brett Jackson, creator of Massive Sqwertz

Brett Jackson is a designer who’s been working the web since 1997. He left his cushy gig as Art Director for Google in New York to move to Switzerland with his wife. He has recently relocated again to Los Angeles where he freelances Flash and graphic design.

In April 2010, Brett began working on a web comic called Massive Sqwertz – a comedy about a giant Smurf.

(There are two important things to keep in mind about the following interview: the both the questions and the answers have been creatively and collaboratively edited. Sorry, that was only one thing. Oh, now I remember, this will definitely get silly and snarky).
Read complete article→

Bruce Sterling on Vernacular Video

Closing Keynote: Vernacular Video by Bruce Sterling on how media morph over time. Chief insight I’ve read before but never heard: to look forward in time, you have to also look twice as far back into the past.

Askew and Askance, 1992

Since I’ve known how to draw or create, I have made self-portraits in words. I always include down the places I have been, and where I may go next. I also include how I identify myself.

(this was made on a Mac and used to be part of the non-professional part of my portfolio, I’m moving that out of there and into the blog).

Self Portrait, 1993

Age 23.

I was dabbling with Micron Pigma .005 pens, an extremely cheap but fine-line pen I discovered a few years before. The style and attitude of this rendering I will leave the viewer to judge.

Color added digitally, 1999.

First Digital

This is the first digital self portrait I ever did. An acquaintance was getting tattooed and my pal Erin took a picture of me in this biker vest – something I can’t imagine wearing otherwise, by the way. Anyway, I matted that to a postcard of some Italian Basilica (giving me a somewhat strange messianic look, I suppose). Note the use of my AOL address

Emergency Room Wallpaper, 1997

When it was slow in the California Hospital – L.A. ER I would sometimes play in Microsoft Paint. Operating System used: Windows 3.1.

Ferris in Repose

From 1988, this is a charcoal sketch of my sister’s cat Ferris. Ferris, a girl, was still a kitten at the time.

She is shown here lounging on my backpack.

Girl Illustration Photo (1989)

I only have this photo to show I made this illustration. I used to draw, sketch, and paint headshots of women all the time. It was a real habit for a while after high school. Most of that work was pretty much useless – but this is an image of one illustration I’m kicking myself over. I think it got damaged during a move and was unsalvageable. It was done with an odd combination of brush and india ink and charcoal. I like it a lot.

Self Portraits 86 / 91

The first self-portrait was executed in high school. I didn’t like high school. My appearance is anxious, as I no doubt was. The medium is marker on paper, and I watercolored on top of a photocopy of that marker drawing. It’s the first self portrait I ever made I was really happy with. It’s from 1986.

As the “Lung” portion of www.artlung.com indicates, I was once in medicine. This line drawing is from that era. I added color to the original drawing in 1999, using Photoshop. My appearance is serious, and maybe a bit weary. This is what I wore clinicals – a white lab coat. Clinicals take place in the hospital, actually carrying out health care tasks. It’s from 1991, and yes, I really did have a mustache like that. It is not a choice I would make again.

Watercolor Spacesuit

I think I did this in about 1989, but I’m not totally sure on that. Pen and ink, with watercolored. I think I must have been thinking about Jean “Moebius” Giraud’s work when I started.

I’m reminded again that watercolor is a heartless, well-nigh-impossible medium. Folks who can do it, even as hacks, have my respect.

Strange Landscapes

Exclamate in Desolation, Oxymandias Melancholia Revisited

Parenthetical Postnuclear Mise En Scène

The Holy Visitation of the Floating Asterisk of Concrete

Giant Semicolon; Dusty, Arizona, 2106 A.D.

Watercolor Girl

Ink and watercolor, Summer 1988, based on a pencil sketch of a friend.

Self-portrait photo, 1988

Black and white self-portrait.

I was 18, thus the incredibly self-conscious narcissism.


I’m not sure what I think of these now. They’re interesting graphic designs, and definitely I used what I learned from them when I made my headers. I’m not sure they qualify as art.

Untitled, 1997.

Untitled. 11 June 2000.

Receipt Poetry, 1999

to go

ch’ bg’


sul grr


md’ lmon

see shk



Another oldie, an illustration enhanced with Photoshop. It makes me wish I had the original drawing.

Prom Program, 1987

For my High School Prom, I was asked to do the program. It was quite an honor. What I wanted to do was have a kiss featured. Here’s a sketch of what I presented:

I used to consider it censorship, but I suppose that was my first big run-in with design and audience considerations. This was for the University of San Diego High School, and all-in-all I do feel honored to have been chosen to design the program.

What’s ironic is that one of the main things I think about from High School with regards to drawing is that in my Freshmen drawing class, the teacher, on the first day, told me I was holding my pencil wrong and I subsequently never listened to a single thing she said.

I can be a stubborn jerk.

Update: I didn’t realize I had mentioned the pencil thing before: Lil’ Johnny Crivello, 1983.

Animated GIFs

Hey look! For no reasons! Ancient animated GIFs I made.

Vertical Capital Letters

After High School, I flailed.

Which is to say I took classes at Mesa College without much of a focus. I enjoyed these classes. Drawing, History of Film, Psychology, Design, Architectural Drafting, Philosophy, Marketing, Broadcasting, Broadcast Studio Operations. This was in 1987-1988 — before we moved to Roanoke Virginia and I shifted my focus to Respiratory Therapy.

One class I really enjoyed, but that was technically challenging was Drafting. It took hard work to get “right” but the effort was good. It was utterly different from the free form cartooning I was used to doing. I learned a lot in that class. I think what I learned can be summed up in the spirit of the quotation from this lettering exercise.



In short, work hard, get better, pay attention to details.

One of my favorite aspects of that class was the fact that we took a field trip to the Nissan Design Studio in La Jolla. It was an inspiration to see them actually applying some of the things we had learned in the class. And even more satisfying in retrospect was the fact that I smuggled my friend Chris Greazel into the class. At the time he was attending Cal State Fullerton and he made the trip special, a two hour drive for about a 2 hour visit.

The Tan Punk, 1985

High School. Loved to draw. Back of a notebook. Anger is an energy!

I remember the marker – it was one of those intensely smelly Japanese markers. It was short and oh-so inky.

Cigarette Man, 1985

Another back of a notebook, like this one previously. I’m so glad my Mom saved these old papers.

Brush Pen Doodles, 1988

And here is more notebook detritus from my spotty post-High School academic career. From the evidence this was from my Philosophy class at Mesa College.

1980s Punk

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