Minnesota sports: get a Kluwe

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Wild-Vikings-Wolves-Twins-Gophers

I have always been proud that Minnesota has a team for just about every major sport: the basketballing Timberwolves, the hockey-pucking Wild, the home-run-hitting Twins, the minor-league-home-run-hitting Saints, even the lacrossing Swarm (what verb is associated with lacrosse?). Arguably our best team, the lady Lynxes, just narrowly lost the WNBA championship two days ago.

The one team I follow closely, though, is our football team, the Minnesota Vikings. There’s much to be proud of this season, a year that was supposed to be dedicated to “rebuilding” (read: sucking). Everyone but the players themselves is completely surprised that the Vikings are now 5-2, and I would guess even a few of the players are surprised.

But it’s not just successes on the field that have brought the Vikings extra attention or made me proud to be a fan recently. About two months ago, Maryland state delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr. wrote to the owner of the Baltimore Ravens to discourage the Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo from his open support of gay marriage. Vikings punter Chris Kluwe published a letter in response that is more than just strongly-worded in its takedown of Mr. Burns. It is so colorful, in fact, that it immediately went viral, and prompted many who know nothing about football to proclaim themselves fans of whatever side Chris plays for (no pun intended…or was it?)

Chris Kluwe: activist, punter, Guitar Hero

Kluwe puts his money–and his time–where his mouth is. This year in Minnesota we will be voting on a shameful proposed amendment to the state constitution that would declare marriage to be solely between a man and a woman. Kluwe has become the celebrity face of Minnesotans United for All Families, the chief opponents of the amendment. He has written to several legislators in the state who support the amendment to request a debate; none have responded.

He hopes ultimately to change the culture of professional sports, so that an active player may someday soon be able to come out as gay and still find a place for himself in the traditionally homophobic arena of the locker room. Kluwe explains as much in his recent profiles in the New York Times, Out Magazine, and our own local paper, City Pages.

But Chris Kluwe is not defined himself by any one label; just read his weekly blog at the St. Paul Pioneer Press. His latest post is about the meaningless of currency. He also quotes scripture to disagree with a Catholic Archbishop, supplies campaign reform solutions, and talks about the psychology of losing. Oh, and he’s hilarious.

So even though Chris Kluwe is originally from California, I’m gonna claim him as a shining beacon of Minnesota awesomeness. Go sports!

How to be a graphic designer

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What you’ll need: at least 2 monitors, Adobe creative suite

Songlist: anything by Bauhaus, Written in Reverse by Spoon

Further reading: um, a graphic novel? No wait, something about graphic design.

McKayla Maroney is not impressed with this logo.

Ok, last post about the Olympics. I swear.

Now, were you surprised at seeing an image as horrifically ugly as the logo above in a post about graphic design? I don’t know a whole lot about graphic design, so I didn’t follow the unveiling of the 2012 London Olympic logo or the subsequent typeface associated with it, and thus wasn’t aware of the outrage that predated my own. Because, for all my love of the Olympics, and for the million hours I spent watching TV over the past 2 weeks, I just could not get over that horrible, clunky, graceless font. (Last time I checked, the Olympics are not exactly a celebration of clunkiness).

Unfortunately, I didn’t rally any of my fellow Olympics-watchers to my cause:

“Isn’t the typography awful?”

“Eh.”

“I mean, seriously, doesn’t it just make you angry?”

“Shh, the girls are hitting the ball now.”

To console myself, I tried outlining a logo of my own, and quickly noticed that the first two letters of the host city’s name are quite similar to the current year. With a little work, something interesting could be done with that similarity. My own attempts weren’t great, but you’ll see what I mean in the following logo, created by British graphic designer Richard Voysey:

Ahhh, that’s more like it

I felt vindicated both by the Brits’ selection of Mr. Voysey’s design as the “favourite alternative logo” of the games, as well as this design blog’s list of the 8 worst fonts in the world. The London Olympics typeface, called 2012 Headline, ranks #1, worse than Papyrus, worse than Comic Sans (which didn’t even make the list). It can’t get any worse.

But I don’t just want to be one of those Debbie-downer-negative-Nancy complainers. I’ve become much more interested in graphic design over the last year or so, after a) reading blogs that frequently link to lovely infographics* and typefaces and b) having to do very basic graphic design myself for one of my jobs. On Saturday I lugged home 5 enormous history-of-graphic-design books from the library, and I mean to make a serious dent in them. At least by leafing through the pretty pictures.

Look out, world.

*The best infographics I’ve seen are by Nicholas Felton, who produces his annual Feltron report, and Warby Parker’s annual report. Here’s a sample of Nicholas Felton’s work:

Data done right.

Happily ever after

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The closing ceremonies of the Olympics are almost unbearably sad to me. Unlike the opening ceremonies when everyone dreams of winning a medal–realistically or not–the closing ceremonies are defined by the victories and defeats of the past 2 weeks. But whether or not they got the gold–and the majority of them didn’t–these athletes will be retelling their stories for the rest of their lives.

As I said to friends on Friday night, I feel so bad for most of these athletes who will spend the next 60 years wishing they’d gotten the gold medal. One friend responded, yeah, and we get to spend 80 years wishing we’d gotten a gold. Touché. Psychologically, however, it’s hardest on silver medalists. While bronze medalists are generally happy just to be on the podium, and non-medalists are generally happy to even be a part of the Olympics, silver medalists are those who missed out by a thousandth of a point or a thousandth of a second. Just ask Lashinda Demus, American hurdler who vowed to never quit until she bumped up her silver status to gold, or McKayla Maroney, whose sour expression on the second-tier silver podium spawned the meme McKayla is not impressed.

Not impressed.

And for those who did get the gold? What happens after the end of the fairy tale? What will Michael Phelps and Misty May Treanor do, for goodness sake, without swimming or beach volleyball?

The second half of the musical Into the Woods wonders what happens after “happily ever after,” and the answer is not a rosy picture. The show ends with the Children Will Listen, a song which cautions that wishes do come true, but “sometimes the spell may last / past what you may see / and turn against you.”

Hopefully that won’t be the case for the Olympians now returning to their home countries. Because, even if McKayla isn’t, we are certainly impressed with our fairy tale heroes and heroines, and hope that “happily ever after” really can come true.

The Olympic fairy tale

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More confessions: I love the Olympics. I love them a lot. I get surprisingly emotional during sports that I ordinarily don’t pay attention to. Heck, I even get emotional while watching Olympic-themed commercials.

It’s only day 2 of the games, but already dreams are coming true and dreams are being crushed. After Michael Phelps’s fairy-tale success in Beijing, so far London has only brought disappointment. And after the huge hype around gymnast Jordyn Wieber, today she failed to qualify for the all-around competition. But in their tragedies lies the potential for others’ fairy tale endings to materialize. So far in London there hasn’t been that one moment that will stand out in the record books, but moments from previous Olympic will remain in our memories forever. And, lest we forget, there’s always Morgan Freeman to make the games feel just a little more dreamlike:

Save the Dolphins

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Either by watching the most incredible documentary ever, The Cove, and taking action:

Or by bringing back Dan Marino. Amiright?

A billion heartbeats: On time

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Time is such an integral element in our lives sometimes it’s hard to imagine it as a matter of debate, a dimension that is both exact and yet able to be perceived in multiple ways. I recently read an incredible list of facts we should all know about time. Here are the most interesting elements:

Time exists–this is certain. A little over a century ago, though, Einstein put forth his theory of relativity which distorted Newton’s classic physics model and thereby the previously accepted understanding of time. Einstein explained that times elapses differently near the speed of light and near black holes. No, most of us will not experience the passage of time in these circumstances, but we’re all familiar with the sensation that time starts to speed up as we get older. And indeed this phenomenon is representative of time being experientially relative.

And yet we are so dependent on time that it influences our cognitive development, communication, and decision processes. The ability to imagine alternative outcomes was necessary for early survival, while our linguistic tenses allow us to discuss these possibilities as a group.

Speaking of possibility, I had the epiphany in high school that all future events must be probabilistically implicit in the present moment. That is, every large and small event that happens in the future (whether I have a child several years down the road or whether I’m late to work tomorrow) will follow a discrete chain of occurrences, each one following the last because it is statistically possible. Granted, the probabilities of each event are infinitesimal past the events that happen in the next few minutes (whether I get up and refill my glass of wine or play my next move in Words With Friends), and yet they are there. (By the way, I just refilled my glass of wine and now there’s a slightly greater chance that I will be late for my 8 am meeting).

Why is this important? Because of this: the past and future are equally real. Whoa.

But what about the present? Our brains delay our experience by 80 milliseconds, about the blink of an eye, so as to compile the “present moment.” It was only after Janet Jackson’s halftime nip-slip that television broadcasters realized why this is important (who knows what hijinks Madonna would have gotten into during today’s Superbowl if we weren’t on a delayed broadcast). When I read this fact, I wondered if this aspect of consciousness has anything to do with flow, the mental process that artists and athletes describe that circumvents usual perception of time. If your muscles respond before you need to think how to react, does that 80-millisecond lag time get reduced? And if so, does that contribute to the sense that time is slowing down?

Having a heart to heart

Whether we live in the past or accept the future as real, though, time moves forward and so does the natural process of aging. Indeed, there are many scientific experiments in the works that may extend human life, and we have already increased lifespans through modern medicine and decreased threats such as predators, exposure to the elements, and other stressors common to early mankind. Yet studies show that the average number of heartbeats for any complex organism is constant, so long as it is not killed prematurely. The larger a creature is, the more efficiently its cells metabolize, the slower its heart, and the longer it lives. There’s a relatively simple scale that shows the magnitude of all these factors, which shows that each one of us, from hummingbird to elephant, has about 1.5 billion heartbeats.

If we only have a billion heartbeats then, let’s not waste them on worrying about what has happened or what may happen in the past, present, or future. Time to refill that wine glass once more.

Best superbowl ads

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Superbowl Sunday is the one day in the year when people will turn on the television just for the commercials. Based on 2011’s showing, those people would have been disappointed. I can’t remember much, except that most of the ads were dreadful. And then there was that one ray of light:

But will the Darth Vader kid stand the tests of time like other Superbowl classics? Like Michael Jordan and Larry Bird shooting for a Big Mac?

Or like this other great duo?

Slapstick humor often scores big:

As do animals:

And then there are those few companies that put all the pieces together and seem to start a cultural phenomenon every single year:

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