You Know, for Spite!

November 11, 2007

This is the true story of how MarbleofDoom.com was born. Those of you with weak constitutions should look away now because it’s not going to be pretty. As any artist knows, the creative process can often be sparked by a number of things; a bit of music, a friend’s comment, a favorite photograph or even just the desire to fill an empty niche. However, in the case of the MOD, no such nobel pursuits came into play. Nope, what we have here is a good ‘ol fashion case of spite. Yes, spite.

Before I get into all that however, I should back up just a little bit. If you don’t know what MarbleofDoom.com is, go check it out. It’s basically a fun, website where Mac users can enter how much time they’ve collectively wasted waiting for the spinning beach ball of death cursor. Users enter time and the site reports on the total number of hours wasted. What’s the point? I’m glad you asked.

The spinning beach ball has been something that Mac users have been dealing with in one form or another since the platform was launched. Back in the early days, Mac users knew it as the dreaded wrist watch cursor that would spin until a process had finished loading. When Mac OS X came along, Apple decided to spruce it up. I guess they figured if you had to wait, why not wait in style? With the advent of the Adobe CS suite of apps, Mac users saw the frequency and duration of the beach ball increase dramatically. I know what you’re thinking. MOD was created to spite Adobe, right? Nope, not by a long shot cupcake. Now sit back down and let me finish the story.

Back in June, two of my long-time friends, Bob & Jiffy Burke, told me via Twitter that at Jiffy’s office, they referred to the beach ball as the “Marble of Doom”. The name really struck a chord with all of us at the Iconfactory and we started referring to it by its new name all the time. We loved the name so much that in September, I decided to add the lexicon to the official Wikipedia entry for the spinning beach ball of death. This is the part where the spite comes in. I was so proud of contributing to the mythos of the beach ball, that when my addition was removed a little over an hour later by a user named Sdfisher, I could hardly believe it. I mean, it was just another name for the cursor, what harm could there possibly be in adding it? According to Sdfisher:

“marble of doom” has 10 google hits, only one of which is Mac related. Removed.

Ask any one of my friends and they’ll tell you I’m not a vindictive person. I don’t fly into fits of anger or wish ill-will on anyone. But when I read that Wikipedia edit from Sdfisher, something inside me snapped. I immediately formed a geeky plan to leverage Mac users everywhere and get “Marble of Doom” back up on Wikipedia. After all, I owed Jiffy no less. Or at least that’s what I kept telling myself.

Months earlier, I had decided to actually record marble spin time using the excellent time tracking utility, On the Job. Every time I’d see the Marble of Doom, I’d immediately add the time to the fake MOD project. After one month of tracking the cursor, I was shocked to find that I was kept waiting a grand total of almost 1 hour. This experience gave me the brainchild for what would eventually become MarbleofDoom.com. All of the guys at work got excited about the project and I even enlisted the help of the talented Wolfgang Ante, our Frenzic and xScope partner, along with our own Craig Hockenberry, to help code the back end. The MOD website became a fun side project that we worked on in the down time between client work. We launched it on 10/19/07 and its popularity soared as Mac users everywhere could finally vent their frustrations with their glassy overlord.

“Marble of Doom” now has over 40,000 Google hits and has given more than a few people a good laugh while they wait for their Macs to return from la-la land. The best part however, was that on 10/30/07, a user named Rory O’Kane re-entered “marble of doom” as one of the names for the spinning beach ball cursor on Wikipedia. Take that Sdfisher! I told you this wasn’t going to be pretty, and now you know. God, I love the Internet :-)

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As a boy, few things captured my imagination like my family’s frequent visits to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. My grandparents lived in the nearby town of St. Cloud, and whenever my family went to visit, we naturally had to make time for a few days at America’s favorite fun land. During my visits in the 70’s and 80’s, I fell in love with the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT Center, and the various hotels, especially the Polynesian and Contemporary Resorts. It’s no wonder then, that to this day, I have a fascination with all things Walt Disney World. Influences from my vacations have creeped into my art, and others have led me to new friends who share a simlar love for retro Disney.

One such friend is a talented designer and illustrator named Greg Maletic. I first met Greg online while I was doing research for my EPCOT Network Nodes icon set. Greg is a huge retro Disney fan and has produced several astounding, faux attraction posters including If you had wings…, Disney’s Swan Boats and Tomorrowland. Greg recently made these posters available as downloadable PDF files that you can print and hang on your own wall. All he asks in return is a picture, so head on over and check out his amazing free artwork. Greg has done “official” poster art for Disney as well, and hopefully one day he’ll be able to make these prints available for public viewing. I share Greg’s love for Disney’s attractions, both current and extinct, and he recently told me he has plans for several new posters. They can’t come soon enough!

Greg’s work inspired me to attempt my own retro Disney attraction poster, and the result was my 20,000 Leagues desktop picture that I originally released over at the Iconfactory a few years back. With the site redesign of 2006, the desktop got lost in the shuffle, so I’ve decided to make it available on the new Goodies page. The desktop comes with a compaion for those with multiple monitors and captures the feel of the original 20,000 Leagues attraction that was sadly closed in 1994. Many rides and attractions have come and gone over the years at both the Magic Kingdom as well as EPCOT. Imagine my dismay when I vacationed in 2001 only to find that EPCOT’s Horizon’s was no more, and changes had been made to The Universe of Energy and Communicore.

I understand the need to keep rides at the park fresh and interesting, but a big part of me misses these attractions that will never be experienced again. There are sights, smells, music and narration to these rides that the children of today will never know. Fortunately, a successful online company called Extinct Attractions has specialized in DVD’s of Disney’s lost rides. I’ve bought several of their documentaries, and they are great for trips down memory lane. My friend Louie was recently at EPCOT and told me that they had closed Spaceship Earth for renovations. I can only hope it doesn’t eventually join the extinct attractions club, it is one of my all-time EPCOT favorites.

For many of us who visited Disney World as kids, our memories will forever be filled with laughter, fun and wonder. Visiting the park is like meeting an old friend who picks you up when you need it most, but is a little different with each encounter. As artists, I think this is why we try to re-capture some of the Disney magic of days past. It’s a small way to connect with others from our generation and look back fondly on our childhood. Every time I walk into the Polynesian Resort Hotel, or even just look at its mascot, the kid in me smiles. I’m sure Walt would say “That’s the whole point.” Indeed.

UPDATE: A hat tip once again to Cabel for pointing me at these ultra-cool retro ad posters for PIXAR’s upcoming film WALL•E. They have that same feel as the classic attraction posters of days gone by. Some of these would make really great desktop picts.

The Real Thing

July 22, 2007

Notice anything different on the soda aisle of your local grocery store? Fans of Coca-Cola and graphic design in general may have recently noticed a change in the packaging for America’s favorite soda pop. Gone are the superfluous swooshes, bubbles and halftone tints that have been creeping onto Coke’s cans these last few years. In their place is one of the strongest treatments of the company’s brand I’ve ever seen.

The can is now a simple field of red with the Coca-Cola logo popped out in white. No drop shadows, no fake drops of water, nothing. In addition, the soda’s “Classic” text has gone from a formal, stuffy serif treatment to a modern, simple sans-serif face that expertly compliments the new logo. Over at his blog, Creative Director Jon Berry wonders how such a straight forward design ever made it past the suits in Atlanta. However it happened, he likes it and I have to say I whole-heartedly agree. The new design is wonderfully simple, clear and feels extremely retro. Maybe others will take a cue from the Coca-Cola company and remember to KISS. Lord knows some companies can use all the help they can get.