Ice Ball

Illustrating 100 Billion Dollars

The story: the LDS Church’s $100 billion in investments. Deadline: a few hours away. The idea (given to me): photograph one of the church buildings downtown.

My idea: photograph the temple and grid it into 100 blocks – each block representing one billion dollars.

Here is the process from initial concept to finished piece…

Before grabbing a camera I put together these 100-block grids to visualize possible shapes. Each block at this point was in the shape of a dollar bill:

The light was bad at Temple Square. But then, good news – the story was holding a day, so I could come back the next morning for better light. I started playing with this photo I had just taken:

A bold idea would be to do something with just the center tower – run it as a thin vertical all the way down the front page. But I didn’t think I’d have time to build out two versions. Here’s the tower isolated:

The initial grid I came up with was a simple overlay, this:

The next morning I made this image as the sun began to rise:

I started out slicing it into 100 layers. First attempt:

Then I went in another direction, setting up grids with all 100 blocks in the central tower. Doing it this way would give me two versions (the isolated tower and the full frame) in the time it takes to build one:

next, slice out the three outer layers – left right & sky:

then create layers of all 100 blocks:

Tall J suggested breaking up the grid as seen below, which helped emphasize the number of rows:

I made this option with the sky layer brought back in:

Getting close. But the way the brick layout broke up the tower left and right was bothering me, so I started over and re-created the 100 tower blocks, this time offsetting every row while keeping the image in the blocks lined up and straight. Then I cropped the left and right layers up from the bottom a bit to match the top and removed the sky layer. That became the final version:

In the end, the image was not used.

Reading

It’s a cautionary tale for the disinformation wars of the internet age, or at least it should be. “Where does my news come from?” is a question not enough Americans are asking these days. Even as venerable newspapers collapse into bankruptcy and the FBI warns that Russia is poisoning our public discourse, popular sites like Zero Hedge continue to grow in power and influence.

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Dialogue, Twitter-style: you get called out on social media. People pile on to you. Other people pile on to the pile-oners. Soon everyone’s anxious or angry or both, no one’s really talking (or listening), and a few tech CEOs are buying new houses in Jackson Hole.

A Crying Public Shame

Every human on Earth is ingesting nearly 2,000 particles of plastic a week. These tiny pieces enter our unwitting bodies from tap water, food, and even the air, according to an alarming academic study sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, dosing us with five grams of plastics, many cut with chemicals linked to cancers, hormone disruption, and developmental delays. Since the paper’s publication last year, Sen. Tom Udall, a plain-spoken New Mexico Democrat with a fondness for white cowboy hats and turquoise bolo ties, has been trumpeting the risk: “We are consuming a credit card’s worth of plastic each week,” Udall says. At events with constituents, he will brandish a Visa from his wallet and declare, “You’re eating this, folks!”

How Big Oil and Big Soda kept a global environmental calamity a secret for decades

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