Sunday, May 8, 2011

Response to Media; Death of Osama bin Laden

As an American, I feel obligated to address what has become a topic of conversation lately: the announcement of Osama bin Laden's death and the resulting media blitz. One immediate reservation I have is prompted by the following question: What news are we NOT reading about as a result of all news channels being clogged with stories about bin Laden?

I was surprised this question was not asked by Peter Joseph of The Zeitgeist Movement in his response below. I did find Peter's words to ring true, and wanted to honor his perspective. Ever since the first Zeitgeist movie (2007) attempted to tackle the difficult information surrounding the events of 9/11, I trust that Mr. Joseph will offer a fresh perspective on things.

Jonathan Blackwell - May 8, 2011

On May 1, 2011 Pres. Barack Obama appeared on national television with the
spontaneous announcement that Osama bin Laden, the purported organizer of
the tragic events of September 11th 2001, was killed by military forces in

Within moments, a media blitz ran across virtually all television networks
in what could only be described as a grotesque celebratory display,
reflective of a level of emotional immaturity that borders on cultural
psychosis. Depictions of people running through the streets of New York and
Washington chanting jingoistic American slogans, waving their flags like
the members of some cult, praising the death of another human being,
reveals yet another layer of this sickness we call modern society.

It is not the scope of this response to address the political usage of such
an event or to illuminate the staged orchestration of how public perception
was to be controlled by the mainstream media and the United States
Government. Rather the point of this article is to express the gross
irrationality apparent and how our culture becomes so easily fixed and
emotionally charged with respect to surface symbology, rather than true
root problems, solutions or rational considerations of circumstance.

The first and most obvious point is that the death of Osama bin Laden means
nothing when it comes to the problem of international terrorism. His death
simply serves as a catharsis for a culture that has a neurotic fixation on
revenge and retribution. The very fact that the Government which, from a
psychological standpoint, has always served as a paternal figure for it
citizens, reinforces the idea that murdering people is a solution to
anything should be enough for most of us to take pause and consider the
quality of the values coming out of the zeitgeist itself.

However, beyond the emotional distortions and tragic, vindictive pattern of
rewarding the continuation of human division and violence comes a more
practical consideration regarding what the problem really is and the
importance of that problem with respect to priority.

The death of any human being is of an immeasurable consequence in society.
It is never just the death of the individual. It is the death of
relationships, companionship, support and the integrity of familial and
communal environments. The unnecessary deaths of 3000 people on September
11, 2001 is no more or no less important than the deaths of those during
the World Wars, via cancer and disease, accidents or anything else.

As a society, it is safe to say that we seek a world that strategically
limits all such unnecessary consequences through social approaches that
allow for the greatest safety our ingenuity can create. It is in this
context that the neurotic obsession with the events of September 11th, 2001
become gravely insulting and detrimental to progress. An environment has
now been created where outrageous amounts of money, resources and energy is
spent seeking and destroying very small subcultures of human beings that
pose ideological differences and act on those differences through violence.

Yet, in the United States alone each year, roughly 30,000 people die from
automobile accidents, the majority of which could be stopped by very simple
structural changes. That's ten 9/11's each year... yet no one seems to pine
over this epidemic. Likewise, over 1 million Americans die from heart
disease and cancer annually - causes of which are now easily linked to
environmental influences in the majority. Yet, regardless of the over 330
9/11's occurring each year in this context, the governmental budget
allocations for research on these illnesses is only a small fraction of the
money spent on “anti-terrorism” operations.

Such a list could go on and on with regard to the perversion of priority
when it comes to what it means to truly save and protect human life and I
hope many out there can recognize the severe imbalance we have at hand with
respect to our values.

So, coming back to the point of revenge and retribution, I will conclude
this response with a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., likely the most
brilliant intuitive mind when it came to conflict and the power of
non-violence. On September 15, 1963 a Birmingham Alabama church was bombed,
killing four little girls attending Sunday school.

In a public address, Dr. King stated:

“What murdered these four girls? Look around. You will see that many
people that you never thought about participated in this evil act. So
tonight all of us must leave here with a new determination to struggle. God
has a job for us to do. Maybe our mission is to save the soul of America.
We can't save the soul of this nation throwing bricks. We can't save the
soul of this nation getting our ammunitions and going out shooting physical
weapons. We must know that we have something much more powerful. Just take
up the ammunition of love.”

- Dr. Martin Luther King, 1963 -

~Peter Joseph

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Slavery's End on our Digable Planet

I rediscovered my predilection for authentic US Hip Hop whilst listening to The Digable Planets newest album Beyond the Spectrum: The Creamy Spy Chronicles, and in the same weekend happened across this NY Times Magazine article,"How Slavery Really Ended in America” . As you can imagine, the combination of reading well-written accounts of emancipation and tuning into some wide grooves has inspired me to write about my passion for the African-American experience.

Ever since I went to elementary school in a building that previously served as a segregated black high school, I’ve been comfortable relating to my African American brothers and sisters, even though as a white male I am the first to admit there is a gulf between us. Call me a gulf surfer, I like crossing that chasm. It makes me feel like I can actually do something worthwhile in this life by simply making friends in the Right Places, which are not necessarily the White Places.

Australia has been a White Place since the First Fleet arrived in 1788. Since my own arrival 220 years later, I have noticed the absence in this nation's history of emancipation and the resulting positive attributes as well as its negative aftermath. In this post I'll explore the similarities and differences of Australia and the United States in regards to their histories of slavery and emancipation. Australia is a very diverse nation and has a bright future ahead with its growth and prominence in the Asia-Pacific region, while the United States is a hyperbolic engine of pros and cons. The US is its own worst enemy, the Ouroboros devouring itself. If we can manage to keep the snake from devouring it's own tail, we're left with the unity of an everlasting circle.

In many ways life is easier without the divisive history of the Civil War weighing heavy on the young democracy of Australia, the colonial cousin of the United States. Australia was a convict colony, but European convicts are inherently more free than slaves, who are identified as another man's property. Again I’ll link to Adam Goodheart’s six page article, “How Slavery Really Ended in America” in the New York Times Magazine where he sheds some light on how the laws in the American Union started to degrade around slaves as property:

On May 23, 1861, little more than a month into the Civil War, [Frank Baker, Shepard Mallory and James Townsend] rowed across the James River in Virginia and claimed asylum in a Union-held citadel. Fort Monroe, Va., a fishhook-shaped spit of land near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, had been a military post since the time of the first Jamestown settlers. This spot where the slaves took refuge was also, by remarkable coincidence, the spot where slavery first took root, one summer day in 1619, when a Dutch ship landed with some 20 African captives for the fledgling Virginia Colony.

In the pages that follow, Goodheart goes on to describe how, in the midst of the Civil War, the slaves Baker, Mallory and Townsend were only considered property of plantation owners in the Southern States. The South was seceding from the Union, and the three men had sought refuge in Fort Monroe, which happened to be a Union fortress within the Southern State of Virginia. They were technically in Northern State territory, and Virginia was no longer a Southern State due to its secession. Therefore the men were not protected as property under United States Law and were under no obligation to be returned to their Virginian master.

It’s stories like these that remind me how far the United States has come as a country, and why it is so exciting and rewarding to live a life dedicated to pulling this momentum further into the future. Australia doesn’t have that motivation I feel. Australians have always enjoyed relative freedom, and are happy to share that with anyone who arrives on their shores. For that I am grateful, and because of that I’m writing about how it really makes me feel.

Because there was no bloody civil war in Australia, and no benchmark of emancipation as a clear call to civil equality, the relative freedom in Australia leaves something to be desired. I had high hopes on arrival that I would meet people with native aboriginal connections and tap into the life blood of equality since the public apology given by Kevin Rudd on February 13, 2008 to the Stolen Generations of native Australian children, the same year I arrived. Now into the third year of living in Sydney I am still on the lookout.

I have joined the Aboriginal equal rights organisation Generation One and am looking into hiring a native graphic designer should my scope of work increase to provide the opportunity. That’s within the realms of possibility in my Australian life, and it fits within the vision I have for ultimately creating a business in Durham, North Carolina. I believe Durham has social commodities that will be valuable American exports. Based on what I’ve seen from my favourite Triangle Hip Hop artist Shirlette Ammons and her recent collaboration with the Dynamite Brothers, I should start an international music label and sign her on a record deal.

The only property this white male wants to own is real estate in countries dedicated to racial diversity and equality. That and being a shareholder of businesses with the same values. God willing, I will work with those both in Australia and the United States who are dedicated to closing the gap of racial inequality that still resonates across our planet, which I don’t find very digable.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Top 10 of 29 Things Designers Should Know

I am a proud member of the Australian Graphic Design Association. Recently they posted this article, "29 Things Young Designers Should Know" by Doug Bartow, principal of id29, who previously published his list of 29 Things in HOW Magazine. If you are like me, 29 seems like a long list. I'm sorry to say, but I like my lists in multiples of five, and preferably a nice round 10. So with all due respect of course to Doug Bartow, here is his list, lightened.

The Top 10 of Doug Bartow's 29 Things Young Designers Should Know:

(In reverse order for dramatic effect, with sketchbook images from the past 10 years)


People you work with and for will make your blood boil from time to time. Whenever possible, be a pro and take the high road. Avoid burning bridges, as people change jobs more often than they did a generation ago. Your paths may cross again in a much different situation, and having a good working history together will make rehiring you easy. Apply this to your online persona as well. Anonymous jabs are petty-be better than that.


Be confident in yourself as an author, designer, photographer, creative. Don't work in a particular personal style. Rather, develop a personal approach to your creative work.
Your commissioned work should never be about you, but it can certainly reveal your hand as the designer. As your work becomes more well-known, you will get hired for exactly that. For your personal work, don't be afraid to tell your story. No one else is going to do it for you.


Develop ideas. Write them down, edit them, share them and elicit a response. Poof! You're a design author. Read design blogs and participate in the discussions. Have an opinion. If you find yourself spending hours a week contributing to other designers' blogs, consider starting your own. The cost and effort for startup are minimal, and the opportunities are diverse.


One piece of advice I give young designers looking to fill out their portfolios is to find the best local arts organization with the worst visual brand identity or website and make a trade. They get some great design work, and you get creative control and real-world projects in your book that other potential clients will recognize.


One of the biggest benefits of a formal design education is the lessons learned in the crit room defending your work in front of your instructor and peers. If you can articulate your ideas and design process in that hostile environment, learning to do the same in client meetings usually comes easy (see No. 21).


Technically, Elvis is still the king, but for the sake of this argument, let's put an emphasis on the message, and consider design as a plan for delivering it. The most effective and memorable visual communication almost always has the right mix of form and content, regardless of medium. Good design can engage a viewer, but interesting content will keep them reading, and thinking, past the headline.


What are you really good at? Contrast that to the skill sets that could help you advance at the workplace. Could your studio benefit from having an in-house photographer, web programmer, video editor or screen printer? Follow your bliss and get the additional training you need to expand your talents and, ultimately, your role at work. Now, does the studio come to a grinding halt when you're home sick for a day? Congrats. You're indispensable.


Founded in 1914 in New York City, AIGA is the professional association for design, representing more than 21,000 professionals, educators and students with 65 local chapters (find a chapter near you) and 200+ student groups. AIGA supports our efforts at the chapter and national levels through the exchange of design ideas and information, research, innovative programming and as a source of inspiration. If you're missing that sense of design community you had in school now that you're in the professional world, AIGA will help reconnect you for life.


As a designer, listening to your ideas being questioned and your hard work being ripped apart isn't usually very pleasant. However painful, though, constructive criticism of your design work is the most effective way to grow as a visual communicator. Remember this when you leave the crit rooms of design school for the boardrooms of the corporate world. Build a network of friends, co-workers and mentors you can use to collect feedback on your work. Online sites (heavy with anonymous commentary) are not an acceptable substitute for this discourse. 


You don't need to be prolific at drawing to benefit from keeping a small book in your bag or back pocket. Ideas tend to arrive at the strangest times, and being able to record them on the spot will help you remember them later. When you fill a book, date, number and shelve it. Soon your bookcase will be a library of your best thoughts and ideas.

About the Author:

Doug Bartow is a principal and design director at id29 in Troy, NY, a firm he co-founded in 2003. He is the former director of design at MASS MoCA, and serves on the board of the UPSTNY chapter of AIGA as programming chair.


About the Editor and Illustrator:

Jonathan Blackwell is Design Manager at Ensemble Partners in Sydney, Australia, a firm he joined after graduating from the Australian School of Business in the AGSM MBA Class of 2010. As a member of AGDA his Design Whitepaper “Graphic Design Thinking: Innovative Advantage” was recently chosen among the top 20 to be exhibited in poster format at AgIdeas International Design Week in Melbourne, where he will be on site Monday May 2, 2011 from 2pm - 4pm to answer questions.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Pray for Japan: How To Survive Earthquakes

These are the words of an email forward regarding Doug Copp, Rescue Chief and Disaster Manager of the American Rescue Team International (ARTI).

Before/after images of the Japanese Tsunami are from

Say a prayer for Japan.

Thanks, Jonathan

>>> forwarded message >>>

It seems like a good time to review this information – Pass it on!

Simple advice for surviving earthquakes.

Forget everything you've been trained to do during an earthquake!!!
Boy! Is this ever an eye opener. Directly opposite of what we've been taught over the years! I can remember in school being told to, "duck and cover" [deadly!] or stand in a doorway [deadly!] during an earthquake. This guy's findings are absolutely amazing. I hope we all remember his survival method if we are ever in an earthquake!!!


My name is Doug Copp. I am the Rescue Chief and Disaster Manager of the American Rescue Team International (ARTI), the world's most experienced rescue team. The information in this article will save lives in an earthquake.

I have crawled inside 875 collapsed buildings, worked with rescue teams from 60 countries, founded rescue teams in several countries, and I am a member of many rescue teams from many countries...

I was the United Nations expert in Disaster Mitigation for two years. I have worked at every major disaster in the world since 1985, except for simultaneous disasters.

The first building I ever crawled inside of was a school in Mexico City during the 1985 earthquake. Every child was under its desk. Every child was crushed to the thickness of their bones. They could have survived by lying down next to their desks in the aisles. It was obscene, unnecessary and I wondered why the children were not in the aisles. I didn't at the time know that the children were told to hide under something.

Simply stated, when buildings collapse, the weight of the ceilings falling upon the objects or furniture inside crushes these objects, leaving a space or void next to them. This space is what I call the "triangle of life".

The larger the object, the stronger, the less it will compact. The less the object compacts, the larger the void, the greater the probability that the person who is using this void for safety will not be injured. The next time you watch collapsed buildings, on television, count the "triangles" you see formed. They are everywhere. It is the most common shape, you will see, in a collapsed building.


1) Most everyone who simply "ducks and covers" WHEN BUILDINGS COLLAPSE are crushed to death. People who get under objects, like desks or cars, are crushed.

2) Cats, dogs and babies often naturally curl up in the fetal position. You should too in an earthquake... It is a natural safety/survival instinct. You can survive in a smaller void. Get next to an object, next to a sofa, next to a large bulky object that will compress slightly but leave a void next to it.

3) Wooden buildings are the safest type of construction to be in during an earthquake. Wood is flexible and moves with the force of the earthquake. If the wooden building does collapse, large survival voids are created. Also, the wooden building has less concentrated, crushing weight. Brick buildings will break into individual bricks. Bricks will cause many injuries but less squashed bodies than concrete slabs.

4) If you are in bed during the night and an earthquake occurs, simply roll off the bed. A safe void will exist around the bed. Hotels can achieve a much greater survival rate in earthquakes, simply by posting a sign on the back of the door of every room telling occupants to lie down on the floor, next to the bottom of the bed during an earthquake.

5) If an earthquake happens and you cannot easily escape by getting out the door or window, then lie down and curl up in the fetal position next to a sofa, or large chair.

6) Most everyone who gets under a doorway when buildings collapse is killed. How? If you stand under a doorway and the doorjamb falls forward or backward you will be crushed by the ceiling above. If the door jam falls sideways you will be cut in half by the doorway. In either case, you will be killed!

7) Never go to the stairs. The stairs have a different "moment of frequency" (they swing separately from the main part of the building). The stairs and remainder of the building continuously bump into each other until structural failure of the stairs takes place. The people who get on stairs before they fail are chopped up by the stair treads - horribly mutilated. Even if the building doesn't collapse, stay away from the stairs. The stairs are a likely part of the building to be damaged. Even if the stairs are not collapsed by the earthquake, they may collapse later when overloaded by fleeing people. They should always be checked for safety, even when the rest of the building is not damaged.

8) Get Near the Outer Walls Of Buildings Or Outside Of Them If Possible - It is much better to be near the outside of the building rather than the interior. The farther inside you are from the outside perimeter of the building the greater the probability that your escape route will be blocked.

9) People inside of their vehicles are crushed when the road above falls in an earthquake and crushes their vehicles; which is exactly what happened with the slabs between the decks of the Nimitz Freeway... The victims of the San Francisco earthquake all stayed inside of their vehicles. They were all killed. They could have easily survived by getting out and sitting or lying next to their vehicles. Everyone killed would have survived if they had been able to get out of their cars and sit or lie next to them. All the crushed cars had voids 3 feet high next to them, except for the cars that had columns fall directly across them.

10) I discovered, while crawling inside of collapsed newspaper offices and other offices with a lot of paper that paper does not compact. Large voids are found surrounding stacks of paper.
Spread the word and save someone's life... The Entire world is experiencing natural calamities so be prepared!

"We are but angels with one wing, it takes two to fly"

In 1996 we made a film, which proved my survival methodology to be correct. The Turkish Federal Government, City of Istanbul, University of Istanbul Case Productions and ARTI cooperated to film this practical, scientific test. We collapsed a school and a home with 20 mannequins inside. Ten mannequins did "duck and cover," and ten mannequins I used in my “triangle of life" survival method.

After the simulated earthquake collapse we crawled through the rubble and entered the building to film and document the results. The film, in which I practiced my survival techniques under directly observable, scientific conditions, relevant to building collapse, showed there would have been zero percent survival for those doing duck and cover.

There would likely have been 100 percent survivability for people using my method of the "triangle of life." This film has been seen by millions of viewers on television in Turkey and the rest of Europe, and it was seen in the USA, Canada and Latin America on the TV program Real TV.