Sunday, January 23, 2005

Heuristic Squelch Issue Review: Jan 2005

Well, here we go. I'm sure you're all waiting for my latest Squelch issue crit with bated breath, and after this I'll only be doing two more of these ever, so let's get to it.

COVER: Elaborate and well-staged, from the props and costumes to the dank lighting and smoke in the air. well done. Loker's little lock of hair hanging down in front is perfect. Is there a cigar cutter anywhere in this photo? I don't see one on my crappy printout, but it seems like it would be awfully appropriate for an environment like this, where guys are cutting off digits AND smoking cigars. As for the gag itself, I get the general idea of it, although I'm not sure I quite get the joke. It's some kind of hardcore backroom Yahtzee game where guys play for keeps, but what's it playing off of? In what kind of game is it appropriate to bet one's limbs? The blood on the saw looks a little catsupy. Overall, the cover is sick in a smart and edgy way. I approve.

MASTHEAD: The first element of the new redesign. I like many things about the new look. The masthead is maybe the only thing I dont' like. I'm not sure well about how well a black masthead will look in the future (even if the colors are inverted, at least one word will have to be black), but then again, if black works on a cover this dark, it ought to work anywhere, as long as the photographers have the foresight to place a smoky light bulb in the top of the graphic. I like the little line, and I like how the word "heuristic" goes over it, and I don't even mind the strange oversized "q," but the little arc where the "heuristic" bends just doesn't do it for me. It's a little too involved, a bit too precious. But who knows, maybe it will grow on me. I do like the way the title at the bottom of each page looks, with the line behind it. More on the redesign as we move along.

PAGE 2: Still no comedy shows. Are we done with those, then? As for the headline font, I know Zack says it's a good font when it's used right, but I still don't know if I'm ready to love Impact again. I'm so used to seeing it misused (and overused it myself for years), that I just can't look at it without assuming the layout is amateurish. The new season of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy has adopted a widespread use of this font in their intro freeze-frames, which I think says all that needs to be said about how gay this font is. (Stephanie makes me watch it!)

I like the new layout of the page, and the staff box against the spine makes good clean sense. STAFF BOX: What the hell happened to all the editors? Talk about trimming the fat. Hope there's someone there to take over next year. Get some people in there. Zack and Mark better be training some layout talent, or by September this magazine will look like the America issue, or worse, if that's possible.

The centered credits in the staff box are a refreshing change. But how is it that the column fills up so much faster now? Oh, I see, because the theme jokes all get their own line now. Looks good. It leaves only two lines for small text, but that's probably for the best. I doubt that shit was ever funny to anyone but us anyway.

No time to critique content. Sorry, Mark. I've spent too long on this page already. Blame Zack.

PAGE 3: Fuck it, let's talk about Newsflashes.

PAGE 4-5: Fancy redesign of Newsflashes pages. Gives the illusion of freshness to rejuvenate a tired format. Pluses: More newslike in appearance. Larger text and spacious layouts feel less cramped and leave less room for awful newsflashes. Space for pictures. Did I mention fewer newflashes? Minuses: More complicated, changeable layout will be harder for novices to follow with when Zack is gone.

Do we have a hint here that Brownstein wrote the Lemony Snicket piece later in the issue?

I don't like the reader poll because it's a very Oniony device. You all know this is just a top ten list with bars next to each entry. Nice drawing though.

PAGE 6: Hasn't something like Almost Futuristic Things been done before?
Virtual Girl is funny. It sort of throws me after the shooting, because then I don't know whether to think if the real girlfriend is still dead. Also, ending on a question feels weak to me for some reason. Overall, solid.

Am I still writing this issue crit? I'm sorry, guys. I can't get worked up over this one. It's solid stuff, generally. Nothing that makes me want to rant and complain, but most of it doesn't make me get up and cheer, either, so I don't know what to say.

Okay, PAGE 9: Daniel Brady's I Am Smarter Than You is funny and well written. Is Brady a newcomer? Seems promising. I like the "William Safire is on vacation" non sequitur tag. But the end of the piece just before that could stand to end stronger. Some kind of finishing blow, you know? This feels like it just cuts off in the middle. You could end this piece after any of the paragraphs and it wouldn't have any less impact than ending here.

SPREAD: Whoa--page numbers on the spread! This is a whole new design! I like the '70s retro font. It looks like it's an issue of the Pelican or something. Who's the guy in the pictures that's not Zack? Maybe I can put a face to one of the names of people I don't know. The second page is funnier than the first me, especially raping the passed out girl, because that shit is hot.

PAGE 12: I thought I wouldn't like Doolittle, but then I did. The first scenario is the only bad one. Doesn't make sense to me. Lists: Diseased Celebs and #1 on the Poli Sci list. On the psychology pick up lines: A your/you're mix-up? Be ashamed.

PAGE 13: Pretty good.

PAGE 14: WE ARE VERY ANGRY. I take it back. Impact looks cool here. Which is good because the piece sucks. Humeur Sans Fronteres in letter form, anyone? If you're going to write pointless rants like this, get yourself a blog. And enough with the silver Jetta thing. As far as I'm concerned, this is now only funny if Mark Thomas did not really acquire a silver Jetta recently, and you built this running gag into the magazine to create a fake inside joke.

PAGE 15: Animal Plastic Surgery. Another piece that I thought I would hate until I forced myself to read it just now. There are moments of genuine funny sprinkled among the last three entries. But not the first. I like cantaloupe-sized nuts dragging in the mud, and I also liked it when you put that phrase in the article. You should have done one called The Swan and it would just be a show about swans getting plastic surgery. Or ducks getting surgery to look like swans.

PAGE 16: 19th C. Job Interviews. Are we still on the Duman-era olde-thymey kick? Whatever, it's funny. Nice job, Kev. Handsome design, too.

PAGE 17: Well observed parody, follows the style of the books quite accurately. Shame about the cheap, gratuitous child-rape ending. It's more crass than witty and spoils the piece, IMIO (In My Infallible Opinion). There was a smarter, cleverer way to end this, and the quality of the piece leading up to it deserved it.

PAGE 18: Freud. Well consturced writing, nice rhythm, bringing back the penis envy joke with just the right timing. Predictable, but in a satisfying way. Pedestrian layout though.

PAGE 19: Physics. I learned a lot.

BACK COVER: Gambler's Weekly. Ties in with the front cover theme, huh? Maybe too many different fonts here. Six different fonts. Only two headlines even share the same font. Some of these fonts are familiar, like the Onion headline font for the dog picture, and the Jack in the Box slogan font for the price. And, of course, my good friend Impact. The graphic is a boring cop-out, but maybe you were out of ideas or time for a photo shoot. The cover lines are good, though, except "Kenny Rogers: Fuck that Guy" which is too similar in feel to the funnier "Baccarat: You Asshole."


Zack said...

(1) The masthead is an Illustrator file and can be done in any color(s). Inversion is not the only option.

(2) My impression of the comedy show situation is that, unable to find someone who will organize them for him, Matt has decided that he would rather be lazy than do the work himself.

(3) I can't accept that Impact is a "gay" font. I just refuse. Impact is too big to be dragged down by one fad show on cable TV. As I said during the redesign process, I am open to finding a replacement, but I am not going to pick a lesser font just because Impact is widely used. Times and Arial were replaced because they were ugly, not because they were common. Anyhow, as I said on my blog, I consider page 2 to be a work in progress.

(4) What happened to the editors? Managing Editor was replaced by Business Manager after Bret left, and Graphics Editor was often just a position for the guy who didn't fit in any other slot (no offense).The Squelch was started with three editors (or two and a business manager), and three is all you need if they're good enough. Also, you need to understand that Mark is the head of a three person creative department (Simon Ganz, Aaron Brownstein), and that I have only been responsible for roughly a third of the layouts in recent Squelches, sharing the job with, primarily, May Mei and Morgan Wadsworth.

(5) I will not be replaced with "novices". And do not look to that departmental traitor, creative editor Mark Thomas, for salvation. To the extent that May Mei and Morgan Wadsworth have not trained themselves, I have trained them. When they are needed to lead, they will be ready. And Liz Unger knows more than I do, so as far as layout is concerned, the only thing you need to worry about is my ego. Look at that design staff, man. The Squelch has never had it so good.

(6) Speaking of ego, "William Safire is on vacation" was the only line I wrote in the entire issue.

(7) The guy in the picture with me is Miles Stejynejm (sic). I don't know him that well, but he's a smoker and a philosophy major, so he's probably hella cool.

(8) Design on the Deenihan piece was mostly May.

(9) The "your"/"you're" entry -- the whole list -- was submitted by Dan Freedman. Just so you know, I mean, it wasn't a mistake we wrote. Just one we didn't catch.

(10) I am glad that you caught on to the shitty font distribution on the back cover. This was intentional. The idea was that since the editorial staff of "Gambler's Weekly" was so desperate that they wouldn't care or have time for layout. So although the magazine is glossy and uses hi-res images, it is poorly designed, and the image is any old thing. That's what I was going for. However, I didn't do it myself. I told May to, and then I stopped paying attention, and just kind of gave a thumbs up when it was done. But ... did you just call Gill Sans and Franklin Gothic similar? I mean, look at those letters. The "e", "t", "a", and "s". The shape of the dot on the "i".

You are adorably brand-prone. Jack in the Box font?

Cassie said...

So you replace pages 7 and 8 with a paragraph lamenting the tediousness of the page-by-page issue critique, then continue to write a page-by-page critique all the way to the end.

Just admit the fact that you don't like reading footnotes!

Kenny said...

Cassie, you're right. It wasn't the crit. Pages 7 and 8 were tedious to read. I didn't want to have to look at them again to comment on them.

Anonymous said...

You're all missing what's important here.

I'm "Pretty good."


Kenny said...

Also, no disrespect to the new staff. I was just asking, since I couldn't tell for sure from the staff box how active their involvement really was. Sounds like things are in good shape.

Zack said...

If measured by dedication, Simon and Aaron, May and Morgan, all equal to the editors.

Eamon said...

I apologize for not being there to fix all the horrendous lapses in spelling, grammar, and general style, but I had a prior engagement. I have spent the past several days cleaning up the pieces and making them reasonably presentable for the website, and when Matt gets off his hump and approves them, you will surely be all "OMG, they look so much better."

I also apologize for not actually contributing anything to the issue other than the picture of the cat (pre-boob job), but I had an excellent excuse (severe clinical depression and panic attacks). Wish me luck.

As for my opinion of the issue -- well? Maybe I'm just jaded and burnt out about comedy in general right now, but I consider this the most laugh-free issue since I joined the magazine. Cassie's piece is clever and original, by far the strongest thing in the issue (although converting it to HTML was a BITCH); the Lemony Snicket sendup works well until the overly caustic ending; the front and back covers, reader poll, and top tens have a few chuckles here and there -- and that's basically it.

I'd wager that the writing suffered due to the time spent on the redesign. Here's hoping that for 14-5 we can pull together a stronger batch of articles to match the spiffier look.

Tommaso Sciortino said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tommaso Sciortino said...

I appreciate the web work you did Eamon but brought to my attention that something is wrong with the website. Specifically, the articles you added weren't approved, and yet they are showing up anyways. To me, it indicates that someone messed with the archive page to display unaproved articles. This is dumb. Loker, I'm looking in your direction becuase you have the Cold Fusion books I lent you. Give me a call and we'll get to the bottom of this.

Eamon said...

Yeah, I noticed that too. Weird.

Also: I was so busy trashing the vast majority of the issue that I forgot to mention how much I enjoyed "Middle America Continues to Scald Self." Have yourself a props sandwich, Mark Thomas.

Eamon said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tommaso Sciortino said...

Well, I went in and approved them. What the heck is Duman doing still being the Big Ape? Let's get off our asses and push that over to locker who is over half way through his tenure. The fact that you both live in the same house should make it really easy. And once that's done will you please promote eanom to orangutan so he actually get some work done properly?


Zack said...

Stenehjem. Miles Stenehjem. That's how it's spelled.

Anonymous said...

Well, you can also access quite a lot of stuff freely on the web site, including the ASUC vote tabulator, letters to incoming EIC, and most of the site passwords, so saying the site needs a look-see is probably an understatement.

Also, where's Issue 3?


Tommaso Sciortino said...

Where can you find the passwords? Not even the administrator should be able to figure out people's passwords. The other stuff isn't that big a deal.