Archive for October, 2009

October 29, 2009

Hinrik the Eskimouse


Eskimo + mouse equals eskimouse. Hinrik is Henry in Icelandic, which seemed fitting based on the backdrop.   After 30 minutes of sketching (seen below) I spent maybe 2 hours or so in Photoshop.  Can’t say much more about this except that I know Aissa will love it.


October 23, 2009

Unearthly challenge 2009 pt1 : Thumbnails

I’m lazy by nature, and so I always need a carrot at the end of a stick to keep me going and to make sure I achieve anything.  When it comes to my art, that carrot is competitions like Unearthly challenge.   The carrot in this case doesn’t specifically mean the prizes (because clearly I’m not going to win), but the experience and exposure that I get just from from joining.  This isn’t some Pollyanna “it’s how you play the game” kind of crap, mind you.  Being freelance and not being part of a larger organization, I often feel that I’m missing out on the skills one picks up in that kind of situation, and this is my way of compensating.

The theme for this year’s unearthly challenge is “end game”.  As the unearthly challenge website explains it:

In Unearthly Challenge 2009, your mission is to portray End Game as a game level, game scene or event that suggests the essence of the two words – End Game. It can be a final powerful looking boss level, the aftermath of a legendary battle scene, an epic occurrence that suggests an end is coming, a stairway to an intimidating portal, a road that ends in a pit of fire, or more. How you portray End Game and how you depict an atmosphere that entices viewers to want to know more, we leave it all up to you. Remember, your final work must be clear, with no explanations required, how the scene depicts the essence of – End Game.

In the initial thumbnails (seen above) I actually ignored the theme and just played around with an idea I’ve had for a while, a makeshift raft city inspired by China Mieville’s Armada and the rafts that people macgyvered together during Ondoy and similar meteorological phenomenon.  I’ve always been oddly fascinated with makeshift things, dating back to my childhood when I cobbled together a handheld fan out of a Tamiya mini 4wd chassis, a pocket knife, and some super glue.  I suppose it taps into my inner efficiency freak, where I hate having anything go to waste (I have a pair of shoes that I’ve been using since the 8th grade, almost a decade and a half ago).

The second batch of thumbnails tries to address the “end game” theme a little more closely, with mixed results.  The one idea I came away with was the symbol of an anchor being the main focus of the piece.  In a city that is tossed about haphazardly by the currents of the sea, the Anchor represents stability, and thus a cult has been built around the worship and control of the anchor.  The cult of the anchor controls the use of numerous anchors, which have been kept down ever since the city found a spot of sea with reasonable weather to live in.  However in recent times another religious organization has sprung up from the ranks of the children born on the Raft: The cult of the Sail.  They represent forward movement, control over one’s destiny, and the search for dry land (hello, waterworld!).  I’m imagining an image depicting the final fall of the cult of the Anchor, which is somewhat difficult considering the competition allows for no human or animal bodies in the image.

While writing this, I stumbled upon the idea of a sail being unfurled, symbolically using the torn down symbol of the anchor as a mast.  Lord knows whether or not I’ll have time to finish this, but I’ll certainly do my best to keep this blog updated while I’m at it.

October 12, 2009

Ondoy Donations : Thanks, Filmspotting!


So one of the more creative things I tried to do to gather up donations for Ondoy victims was to email all the podcasts I listen to and basically beg them for donations.  Of all the podcasts I mailed only one of them replied: Filmspotting.  At about 52 minutes in I was already losing hope that they’d mention my email but they actually had a short segment where they talked about my request, something that really blew me away.  I have no idea if their call for donations actually amounted to anything, but the fact that they were willing to spend some air time to talk aboutmy email really speaks highly of them.

Run by Adam Kempenaar and Matty Robinson (and formerly Sam Van Hallgren), Filmspotting has been on my podcasting radar for nearly 3 years now, and it continues to be my favorite film podcast.  Aside from helping me understand why I love the movies that I love Filmspotting’s also responsible for such quotable quotes as “I hear what you’re saying, but you’re absolutely wrong” and “That movie made me so angry I wanted to punch it in the face!” So If  you’re a fan of movies and like to dig alittle deeper into what makes a good film (at least from a viewer’s perspective), please do yourself a favor head on over to filmspotting or download their podcast on iTunes or the Zune music store, maybe even shoot them an email thanking them as well.

October 1, 2009

A response to “An Unpopular Opinion on Volunteerism”

My friend Luis wrote an interesting post on the merits on volunteerism on his blog today, in which he expresses that volunteering your time may not be in the best interests of the people you’re trying to help.  It’ll certainly be an unpopular view, especially amongst the more touchy-feely amongst us, but I find that there is some merit behind his thought experiment, even though I believe that ultimately it’s quite flawed.

His first argument is that as a web developer earning white collar wages, he and his associates are better serving people in need by simply earning more money to donate to the cause.  According to him,

a given developer cannot sort relief goods any faster than your average minimum-wage employee. (In some cases, the developer, with his soft, developer hands, might even perform worse than the minimum-wage guy, who likely has more experience with manual labor.)

The thought here is that since this is manual labor we’re talking about, it’s a misallocation of resources for the developer to devote his time to packing goods instead of earning $25 an hour to doanate.

It’s a valid point, but I think he misunderstands the scale of the crisis.  It’s huge.  Really fucking huge, and you only begin to realize how huge once you’re there packing goods and you realize that even with all these people volunteering you’ll never be able to pack enough goods in time to help everyone.  But if there were less volunteers, especially at the most critical stages of the crisis, how many less relief packages would have been sent out?  I don’t know, but I’d personally assume much less.  His concern about the misallocation resources is valid however, in a different manner.  There are enough volunteers to go around, especially since shool’s been suspended, but they aren’t allocated properly.  For example, on Sunday there were maybe a hundred people packing or sorting goods at the Balay expo in cubao, myself among them.  By Monday, that number had more than doubled, and by Tuesday there were maybe 500 people in a relatively small space, leading to a gross inefficiency in the use of manpower (except in the bed-making room, where there were just enough volunteers so that it was an efficient process).

And so yesterday I stepped back to both take a rest and see what else I could do to help, and I hit upon the idea of asking all my regular podcasts to broadcast a cry for help (no responses so far) and personally emailing my current and past clients for a small donation, which I would use to purchase relief goods (made about 8 grand, 5 grand of which was donated directly to me to purchase goods, and the rest donated to their charity of choice).

So really I feel that it’s not about whether volunteering or donating is more efficient, it’s when is the right time to volunteer, and when is the right time to donate?  My answer would be volunteer first, then donate later, then volunteer again when you have spare time, till things start to normalize.

His second point, and the one which I found most intriguing, was that if you didn’t have time and didn’t want to simply donate, you could theoretically hire people to do the manual labor for you , with that added bonus that for what you earn in an hour, you could hire a bunch of people and pay them minimum wage to sort and pack goods.  You would be accomplishing more and generating employment at the same time.  It’s quite a brilliant idea, but in real world terms I think it would be much more difficult to pull off.  First, where would you find reliable manual laborers to agree to work for minimum wage to sort and pack goods?  You could either troll the streets of manila looking for able bodied laborers (ie wasting time you could have spent either volunteering or working) or perhaps you could go to a manpower company and ask them for laborers, in which case they’d charge you more than minimum wage, weakening the original premise that you could simply hire people to do the work for you.  Then there’d be signing contracts and whatnot and sorting out the legalities of your hiring day laborers for a few weeks.

The second real life issue that arises is motivation.  Luis assumes that their output will be 10x that of your own.  Will your hired laborers pack and sort as much goods as you would if you were volunteering?  Volunteers are powered by adrenalin and the endorphin rush of altruism.  His theoretical manual laborers would be powered by the minimum wage.  Who would keep an eye on them to make sure they’re doing their job as efficiently as possible?  Even with officers manning the volunteer stations the folks you paid could simply wander off, then come back to you and insist that they did a hard day’s work.  So now we’re presented with another unanswerable problem: What is more efficient, the time a volunteer spends that can be verified (ie since you’re the one doing the work) or the time a “squad” of laborers spend that cannot be fully accounted for?  If you’re paranoid like me I’d just rather do the work myself, but let’s give the benefit of the doubt to the laborers and assume they’ll at least match one altruistic volunteer’s energy for the entire day.  Like Luis says at the very least you’ll be creating jobs.  If any of you actually pull this off, please let me know.

His final argument is actually an extension of his second, which is that basically, if everyone just had the capacity to donate money they should, since then the relief organizations would be flush with cash to spend on goods, laborers, and equipment to help our countrymen.

let’s assume that we lived in a country where everyone was earning above minimum-wage. (Again, a logical impossibility, but thought experiments are strange that way.) What would happen is that the relief operations would be flush with cash because everyone would be donating in an effort to maximize the aid they were extending. The operation heads could then simply hire people to do the work of volunteers. Or, God forbid, fly low-wage workers in from other countries to do the job for us.

That would be great, except the infrastructure that should have existed to allow the relief operations to maximize the use of this money isn’t present.  In fact, relief operations should always play a secondary role to rescue and relief, and the NDCC should have been far better coordinated at dealing with this issue.  They weren’t, hence the relief centers, hence the need for people to immediately volunteer man them, in order to stave off a further crisis.

The bottom line for me is that both donations and volunteers are needed, and the important thing is to distinguish when and where to do it.  As in most things in life, timing is everything.  To be fair to luis, he says

I’m not saying that people should stop volunteering, all I’m saying is that they need to think long and hard about whether they are helping more that way or not.

Which is a good point, and thanks to him I’ve decided to hold off on relief operations tomorrow while the college kids are still getting their altruistic high (funniest line of the week, a conotic Atenean yelling “Pare, it feels so good to sve the world!”) and start volunteering once the relief operations are low on manpower.

October 1, 2009

Ondoy donations : It’s a small world after all!

I wanted to write this quick post to thank two of my current clients, Kenneth Gangstoe and Michael Daley for answering my email asking for donations for the victims of Typhoon Ondoy.  I feel incredibly guilty that I managed to get out of Ondoy with just a lack of running water and needing to move my car so I’ve been thinking of all the ways I can contribute apart from just donating goods (done last sunday) and time (been working at the balay expo cubo from sunday to tuesday).  My first idea was to contact all the podcasts I listen to and basically beg them for airtime to talk about Ondoy, and the second idea, which had more immediate results, was to email all my clients to as for a small donation.  Two of the first people to answer were Kenneth and Mike, so again I’d like to thank them and at the same time let them know exactly what their donations bought:

  • 100 cans of sardines
  • 100 cans of corned beef
  • 120 bottles of water
  • 50 pairs of slippers

I donated these to the Philippine National Red Cross Chapter office along Shaw boulevard just a few minutes ago.  This is a big help, but we can’t stop here.  Lots of people still need help and donations so if any of you do freelance work and have awesome clients like mine, please don’t hesitate to tell them about Ondoy and ask for a donation.  Thanks also to Tony Oakden and Paul Taylor for donating to separate aid agencies!

Tomorrow the members of IGDA Manila will be meeting for a casual meetup, and hopefully they’ll listen to my call for relief goods, and we can make a second batch of donations this weekend, before taking a trip to clean up Provident village.  Still lots of work to be done people, if you really want to get involved.