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Archive for the ‘Made in Katania’ topic

Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times: The Ultimate Reality Game

Play the Modern Times Game! The idea for this game came to me in a dream. It is based on a scene from Modern Times, a Charlie Chaplin film. It’s the one where Chaplin is working on an assembly line, mind numbingly screwing in bolts with a spanner until he finally goes mad. Continue reading…

Missing Socks and Washing Machines: Vessels of Inter-Dimensional Travel

I have long held the belief that washing machines can on occasion become accidental portals, which in turn allows travel to other dimensions. It would explain the missing sock phenomena which states that given enough time, you’ll end up with just one half of each pair.

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The Men’s Guide to Color Theory

Color theory applied to lingerie

A few days ago, a color conspiracy, enacted by women, swept over the social webs to raise awareness and at the same time, pull one over on us men. So now more than ever seems like the appropriate moment to publish an excerpt from the longest ‘short’ story I’ve ever written, but decided not to complete. (I happen to be working on something more important right now). Never the less, rather than leaving this to collect dust, I’ve decided to share with you these little wisdoms and what fascinating things the colors of lingerie have to reveal:

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A Travel Map based on Time

A time travel map with cities relative to Brussels

I’ve always had this nagging feeling that certain places, even though they are physically quite close, always seemed to be so far away. Further even than distant places, simply because they are more time consuming to reach thanks to a lack of direct highways or too many traffic lights along the way.

So while the shortest route between two points may be a straight line, the quickest route on the other hand is determined by the fastest mode of transportation at your disposal. To illustrate this, I created a time travel map that positions cities relative to Brussels based on how long it takes to reach them using only public transportation.

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How to test your time machine actually works.

The problem with time travel is you never know where you'll end up

One might think that time travel is difficult at best and impossible at worst, but it’s not. It’s actually quite easy to accomplish. The most widely used method of time travel today is called growing old. We do it all the time.

The Dangers of Time Travel

If on the other hand, you want to travel back in time, that’s a whole different challenge. So let us assume we’re going to build a time machine that will let us do just that. How do we test it to make sure it works? Unless of course you want to be the guinea pig and risk ending up in a time or place that might not be so hospitable to your fragile existence. You wouldn’t be the first time traveler to end up frozen in the middle of space, due to the small oversight of earths moving trajectory around the sun, and the relative motion of the solar system within mind puzzling accelerated expansion of the larger universe. But let us not worry about that for now.

One theory states that even if a time machine were built, you would still not be able to time travel to an age prior to the existence of your workable machine. It was proposed as a reason why time travelers have not come back from the future so far, for lack of a vessel present in this day and age to do so. It also prevents you from going back in time and killing yourself before you were able to actually build your time machine, thus making it impossible to travel back in time to kill yourself in the first place, and creating a temporal rupture in the fabric of the space time continuum that could possibly destroy the entire universe. In other words, before we can bump into other time travelers or create utterly destructive paradoxes, we first have to build a time machine.

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Mapping Belgium’s Absurd Borders


It’s finally out: The Strange Maps book by Frank Jacobs, the man behind the wonderful Strange Maps blog. The book itself has become a hefty anti-atlas bringing together some of the strangest, weirdest and interesting maps ever created or found.

I’m also glad to say that it contains two maps of my own.

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Imagining a New Color – Part I

A rainbow Over the Mongolian Hills


Is it possible to imagine a truly new and distinct color? A color that cannot be derived from any of the existing colors we already know?

I’ve tried, and to date, I’ve failed. But I haven’t quite given up yet. And so the goal of this article is to detail my quest in search of this unknown and illusive new color. To do so, we must delve into the world of colors and learn how we perceive them all around us. But first, I want to make clear what it is I’m trying to do.

I want a new color.

I’m not talking about discovering a new tint of red, or giving name to a peculiar shade called ocean-green-berry-blue. No, what I want is an entirely new primary color. Let me clarify:

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Why I Drew Cartoons to Subvert the System

Cartoon of a boxing match gone wrong

Improvising My Way Through School

The biggest culture shock I’ve ever had to experience in my life was when I had to return to my own country. I was thirteen when I was sent to a strict Catholic school in my new home town. Until then, most of my youth had been spent in international schools abroad. In comparison, my previous schools had been very lax and easy going. To add to the difficulty and after for years of living in an English speaking environment, I had pretty much forgotten how to speak Dutch and had to relearn it for the third time in my life.. I was given a crash course over the summer with a private tutor. But even then, it would take years before I actually mastered it well enough to take part in conversations. It was a frustrating experience. By the time I had found the right words to say, the conversation had long moved on to something else.

And if the communication problem wasn’t enough, I quickly discovered I had little in common with my most of my fellow students. Frankly, I found them to be close minded. Not that it was their fault. They had simply lived very insulating lives. While I had already seen half the world by then, most of them had rarely ever left the villages they had lived in all their lives.

I also had a serious problem with the strictness of the school system. Being in a position to compare, I found that the way they went about things to be very counterproductive. And to make things worse, I was not only subjected to the normal school curriculum, I also had to spend an hour after school every day in study. It was a moment where one was supposed to do their homework and review the subjects they had seen that day. Doing my homework was rarely a problem, but I was never one to actually study. I simply didn’t have the patience to take the time and memorize stuff. If the subject matter was interesting enough, I would automatically remember it. Otherwise I couldn’t really be bothered. That meant that in practice, the subjects I enjoyed, I usually past with flying colors (Do colors actually fly?). And the subjects that couldn’t hold my attention didn’t get my attention either. When faced with tests and exams, I simply improvised my way through it. This is probably also the reason why I always failed in French. You can’t invent new words and grammar in an existing language spoken by two hundred million people around the world. They simply won’t stand for it, and my French teachers shared the same sentiment. My lack of effort in certain domains showed in my grades and is it’s probably also the reason I was forced to follow study in the first place. What goes around, comes around.

Cartoon of a lost arc

Subverting the System

I had to fill an hour every day in which I was not aloud to leave my desk or even make a sound let alone talk to the others around me. The only thing expected from me was to do my homework and study, and that posed a serious a problem. I really had no intention of wasting my precious time on this planet with such silly things. So I tried to make the best of my less the stellar situation and started to improvise my way out of it. On my first day, I decided to write a book.

Big mistake!

Coming from schools with a relaxed attitude, the concept of punishment essays was completely alien to me. In my previous schools, you really had to misbehave before a teacher would intervene, and at worst, that meant being sent to the superintendent’s office. Not so in my new school. Any behavior that deviated from what was expected of the ideal student was enough to get you punished. Talking in class? A two page essay on why not to talk in class. Chewing gum? A five page essay on why gum chewing is an abomination of civilization. Not paying attention? Rewrite the school rules three times. Even not knowing the correct answer to a question could at times be punishable by essay.

And each lesson would begin with the students – whom had previously been punished – coming forward handing in their essays. And each lesson would end with a role call of all the students that had received punishment during the lesson as a reminder of how much and when their essays where due.

Cartoon of an airfieldcartoon_11

Metro Cartoon

And there I was, on my first day at study, confidently writing the first pages of my first book. As they saw me write, some of the students around me started to react in excitement pointing their fingers at me, sniggling and giggling. Puzzled by their reactions, I continued writing, but without a clue of what all the fuss was about. Alerted by all the commotion around me, one of the study masters walked up to my table. Once he saw what I was doing gave me a frown. He then asked me if I was writing an essay. Well, actually, I was writing a book. But fearing I had to explain myself in a language I didn’t quite master yet, I went for the obvious answer and replied with a simple ‘yes’. Little did I know right then that ‘essay’ was actually code for ‘punishment’. Unwittingly, I had gained the reputation of a troublemaker on my very first day of school.

I quickly gave up on my idea of writing a book and concluded that if I was going to survive in this environment, I would have to outfox the system and everyone in it. It’s here where I discovered the ninety/ten rule. If you appear to be good ninety percent of the time, people around you will automatically assume you’re also being well behaved in the remaining ten percent of the time. Of course, no one can possibly always be a saint 100% of the time. But in practice, most people never question this assumption unless given good reason to. We generally don’t like unpredictable and complex world views.

And so I was quick to learn how to become a mischievous little bastard without ever getting caught. Especially considering some of the things I pulled off where quite public affairs. I would skip school on occasion, get into fights, commit acts of creative sabotage, sneak my way out of ever writing punishment essays, psychological manipulation, signature forgery, trespass, gamble with money, indulge in chalk graffiti… all while maintaining the image of a boy that would never hurt a fly. As I said before, it was counterproductive system. I was much better behaved in the schools that showed more tolerance.

Cartoon of a clown and balloonsCartoon of a toilet by the meterCartoon of wallpapering the chinese wall

Art School

But back to my problem: how to spend an hour in study without actually studying? I learnt how to pretend. Turns out, it’s really easy to fake. It’s sufficient to just stare at a page to fool a study master that has to keep a watchful eye on a fifty other students. And instead of making notes, I made little drawing instead. And it was during this time that I started dreaming up all kinds of funny situations and translating them into to cartoons.

Predictably, while I was having fun during study, some of my grades suffered. When I passed my second year there, it was deliberated that my scores where ok, but not good enough to continue in this particular school. I was thrilled. I had always wanted to continue studying in an art school, but they had denied me that option on the grounds that I was too intelligent for such a thing (In Belgium, a school education is mandatory until you’re 18 years of age. As a result, art school had a reputation as a place for students who would have otherwise dropped out if it weren’t for this law). But thanks to my laziness and my grades not up to standards, I was finally able to do what I always wanted to do: learn something at school that I actually enjoyed. Add to that, it wasn’t Catholic and it wasn’t strict. It was perfect. It was also a relief. I knew that if I had to remain in a strict school, that eventually, the only thing I would learn was how to be become an accomplished petty criminal.

Cartoon of an operation part one

Cartoon of an operation

But things turned around. The predictions that the lack of discipline at my new school would further make my grades suffer, were proven wrong. It was actually quite the opposite. Though I must admit, I was still not able improvise my way through French, but at least I was passing, though just barely.

The Cartoon Collection

My published cartoonBut after two years of study at my old school, I had managed to accumulate quite a lot cartoon sketches. And it was during my first year at art school that I brought them all together, redrew them in a formal format and started to ink them in. A year later, I had created about eighty such cartoons. I even managed to get one published in a national newspaper. My biggest dream at the time was to one day win a place at the International Cartoon Festival of Knokke. It had even become a yearly pilgrimage to take a train to the coast and visit the festival exposition.

But those dreams came to an abrupt end once my second year at art school commenced. Play time was over. Faced with being creative against constant and extreme tight deadlines plus a very tough grading process to boot, everybody’s stress levels skyrocketed. Those who couldn’t take it bailed out and probably still have nightmares from that period. I managed to hang on long enough to see the light. But it left me with little time for other things. Especially after I quite by accident started publishing my own weekly class newspaper (which I continued doing until I finally graduated from secondary school). Somehow by then, I had lost interest in drawing cartoons. Instead I had discovered I had new passion: though I couldn’t spell, I loved to write.

The Ephemeral Nature of Design

Last Friday, Bert asked me to name a few cool projects we had created recently. My mind drew a blank. Not that we hadn’t made anything cool, far from it. It’s just very rare to ever look back. Once a project is delivered, we’re usually already too busy working on the next one to sit down and contemplate on our achievements. As they say over here: Out of sight, out of heart.

For the past fifteen years, I have, as a graphic designer, worked on all kinds of internet projects. And if there is one thing I understand, it’s that a lot of what I create is ephemeral. Some of the designers I know never wanted to make the switch to digital, because when you design for print, you at least have something substantial that you can touch and feel at the end of the day. With digital, everything remains virtual. Add to that, I work in a fast paced sector and much of what I create will soon quickly become outdated or obsolete.

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The Nchiwe Map


There are still some finishing touches to be done on the Pangaea Expedition site before it is ready for prime time. But in the mean time, I’ve finally completed the Nchiwe Map. It depicts the settlements of the Nchiwe civilization some 75 thousand years ago. Creating it was one thing. Exporting it to a 90×60 cm image was another matter. It was a real test in patience. Now I’m investigating which services are best suited to sell it as a poster. Lulu seems to offer the best quality prints at 300 dpi. That’s a 10800×7200 pixel image (77 mega-pixels). I’ve heard a lot of good reviews about the site. But while they may be great for books, the whole process of purchasing posters seems rather complex and not always very clear. Another problem is the fact that they offer the posters in three different formats. But for some reason, they don’t share the same aspect ratio. So if the buyer doesn’t choose the intended format, he’ll get a trimmed version instead. In the case of the Nchiwe map, choosing a smaller format means bye bye New Zealand (Aotearoa on the map). And Lulu doesn’t offer the publisher the option of only selling one particular format instead of all three.

The other alternative is Cafe Press. Their shop is more polished and clearer to use. At least you know exactly what you’re purchasing. My only doubt is the quality. While they do except 300 dpi images, they seem to prefer 200 dpi ones. Does this mean that they are printing it at max 200dpi or are they rightly assuming that for photo enlargements, up-scaling it beyond 200 is useless? I guess I’ll just have to purchase my poster and do a quality check before I actually start selling them.

Update: Looks like my choice has been made for me. I just got a mail from Lulu. They will soon no longer be offering posters for sale.

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