Patrick Garvin: Blog

This week in LGBTQ news, April 7-13

April 13th, 2014

In case you missed it, here are some of the biggest news pertaining to LGBTQ issues to come out of the last week:

ACLU filed suit in North Carolina
The American Civil Liberties Union launched a new legal assault on North Carolina’s constitutional ban on recognizing same-sex marriage, urging a federal judge to quickly negate it to help children and gay couples suffering from urgent health problems. The civil rights group said it was seeking to speed up a decision in lawsuit filed in 2012 by citing the urgent health needs of a child who suffers from cerebral palsy who was adopted by one of the lesbian couples involved in the case. The ACLU also filed a new lawsuit on behalf of three other lesbian couples struggling with health conditions made more difficult because they lack legal recognition of their marriages performed in other states, said ACLU staff attorney Elizabeth Gill.

For more context:
ACLU sues for faster action to overturn North Carolina same-sex marriage ban [Charlotte Observer]
‘We don’t have time to wait,’ 78-year-old gay plaintiff says [News & Record]


Federal judge ordered Indiana to recognize couple’s marriage
A federal judge ordered Indiana to recognize the out-of-state marriage of a gay couple before one of the women, who has ovarian cancer, dies. The decision, specific to the couple, who married in Massachusetts in 2013, doesn’t affect other lawsuits challenging Indiana’s ban on same-sex marriages.

For more context:
Indiana must recognize couple’s marriage [The Boston Globe]
Judge grants request to force Indiana to recognize couple’s same-sex marriage [The Indianapolis Star]
Judge orders Indiana to recognize ailing gay woman’s marriage [The Chicago Tribune]


Tom of Finland stamps announced, Harvey Milk stamp ceremony at White House announced
Itella Posti Oy, the Finnish equivalent of the United States Postal Service, announced it will release new stamps featuring the sketches of Touko Laaksonen, better known as Tom of Finland. Per the announcement:

His emphatically masculine homoerotic drawings have attained iconic status in their genre and had an influence on, for instance, pop culture and fashion. In his works, Tom of Finland utilized the self-irony and humor typical of subcultures.

During his career, Tom of Finland produced more than 3,500 drawings. The two drawings on the stamp sheet were selected by graphic artist Timo Berry, who designed the stamp, and Susanna Luoto, the Finnish representative of the foundation named after Tom of Finland operating in Los Angeles.

The stamps will debut in the fall. Unless you’re my mother or my nephew, click here to see the stamps. But if you are my mother or nephew, then please, do not click there.


Chelsea Manning to serve as honorary grand marshal of San Francisco Pride Parade
Chelsea Manning, an imprisoned U.S. Army private charged in a massive leak of U.S. secrets to the WikiLeaks website, will serve as an honorary grand marshal in this year’s San Francisco Pride parade. Parade organizer Gary Virginia said Friday that Chelsea Manning — formerly known as Bradley Manning — was chosen to make amends for a controversy last year. Manning was named an honorary grand marshal ahead of the 2013 parade, but had the honor revoked. Virginia apologized, saying that decision was mishandled.

For more context:
Bradley Manning won’t get Pride honors [San Francisco Chronicle]
San Francisco gay pride rescinds honour for Bradley Manning [The Guardian]
Chelsea Manning parade retraction still creating tension on SF Pride board [San Francisco Examiner]


Open letter to Pope Francis urges him to change church teaching on homosexuality
The head of a homeless shelter for LGBT youth published an open letter to Pope Francis in The New York Times Sunday, asking him to change the Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexuality.

I write to you as a Roman Catholic, a former Benedictine monk and as a gay man who has spent over 30 years serving the homeless, first as a member of the Catholic Worker Movement, and now as the founder and Executive Director of the Ali Forney Center, America’s largest center for homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth based in New York City.

I write on behalf of the homeless LGBT youths I serve. I ask you to take urgent action to protect them from the devastating consequences of religious rejection, which is the most common reason LGBT youths are driven from their homes. At the heart of the problem is that the church still teaches that homosexual conduct is a sin, and that being gay is disordered. I hope that if you understand how this teaching tears families apart and brings suffering to innocent youths, you will end this teaching and prevent your bishops from fighting against the acceptance of LGBT people as equal members of society.

Read the full ad here.


Alan Simpson announces support for same-sex marriage
Former US Senator Alan Simpson has filmed a same-sex marriage commercial that will air in Wyoming and other western states. Simpson says as a Republican he believes one of the party’s core values is the right to be left alone. He says whether people are gay or lesbian or straight, if they love someone and they want to marry, they should marry.


Obama’s stance on gay marriage in 2008, and what that means in 2014

April 13th, 2014

This past Friday, Mike Huckabee referenced Obama’s 2008 views on gay marriage when speaking to Laura Ingraham on “The O’Reilly Factor”:

The position that I hold is the position that Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden held in 2008. Barack Obama held it until 2012. And my question that I would love to pose to the president is this: Mr. President, please explain that when you said in 2008 at the Saddleback Church forum that you stood for traditional marriage and you did so because you were a Christian and because it’s what the Bible taught, please answer: Were you lying then, are you lying now, or did the Bible get rewritten?

View the video below:

Huckabee’s not the only one referencing Obama’s stance in 2008. In the last few weeks, in the wake of Brendan Eich’s resignation as CEO of Mozilla, several pundits and bloggers have referenced Barack Obama’s views on same-sex marriage in 2008 when he was a candidate running for president. The unifying question was this: If Brendan Eich had to resign as CEO of Mozilla because he gave $1,000 to support Proposition 8 in 2008, why does Barack Obama get a pass for saying in 2008 that marriage should be between a man and a woman?

It echoes a similar question posed by Larry Elder of WND a few years ago, who asked why Rick Santorum was being scrutinized for his views on same-sex marriage, but Obama was getting a “pass” when, in Elder’s estimation, Obama had similar views as Santorum had.

DID Obama share the same viewpoint as Santorum, Eich or Huckabee? Well, how comparable Obama is to Eich, Huckabee or Santorum depends on how narrowly or broadly you define his views in 2008.

Indeed, in 2008, at Saddleback Church, Obama did say, “I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. Now, for me as a Christian… it is also a sacred union. God’s in the mix.”

Click the YouTube video below to watch in full.

In that video, after saying that he believed that marriage is between a man and a woman, then-candidate Obama said he supports civil unions. He also said he does not believe in a constitutional amendment defining marriage. As recently as 2012, a month after Elder’s column comparing Obama to Santorum, Santorum voiced opposition to civil unions for same-sex couples while saying that he couples could work through the existing legal system to use contracts to get each of the rights associated with marriage.

Thus, to compare someone’s views on same-sex marriage to Barack Obama’s view in 2008 simply on the definition of marriage as a man and woman doesn’t tell the whole story on Obama or that other person’s viewpoints on civil unions. To only stop at the man-woman definition of marriage is too narrow and potentially misrepresents both Obama and the people to whom he’s being compared.

Specifically, if we’re comparing Obama and Brendan Eich. Eich was pressured to resign because he gave $1,000 to support Proposition 8. Obama, in 2008, did say, “I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman.” But in 2008, Obama also said that Proposition 8 was “divisive and discriminatory.”

It’s unknown why Eich supported Prop 8, or what his personal views are. When the donation became public knowledge, he said he didn’t want to discuss Prop 8 on his blog or on Twitter. He said he wanted to focus on the company, not his personal beliefs.

[W]ithout getting into my personal beliefs, which I separate from my Mozilla work — when people learned of the donation, they felt pain. I saw that in friends’ eyes, [friends] who are LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered]. I saw that in 2012. I am sorry for causing that pain.

Hampton Catlin, a developer who couldn’t legally marry or start a business with his partner until the Supreme Court ruled last year that backers of Proposition 8 lacked standing, had blogged that he and his husband Michael would be pulling their product from the Mozilla Marketplace. Many came to see them as the figureheads of the boycott. After Eich’s resignation, Hampton Catlin wrote:

I met with Brendan and asked him to just apologize for the discrimination under the law that we faced. He can still keep his personal beliefs, but I wanted him to recognize that we faced real issues with immigration and say that he never intended to cause people problems.

It’s heartbreaking to us that he was unwilling to say even that.

We absolutely don’t believe that everyone who voted yes on Prop 8 is evil. In fact, we’re sure that most of them just didn’t understand the impact the law would have. That’s why so many people have changed their mind in 4 short years – because they saw the impact and pain that the law caused to friends and family members.

People think we were upset about his past vote. Instead we were more upset with his current and continued unwillingness to discuss the issue with empathy. Seriously, we assumed that he would reconsider his thoughts on the impact of the law (not his personal beliefs), issue an apology, and then he’d go on to be a great CEO.

The fact it ever went this far is really disturbing to us.

Many think that Eich got a raw deal and it was unfair that he was pressured to resigned. But has Obama gotten a clean pass on his statements?

If Obama or anyone who voiced opposition to same-sex marriage ever got a “pass,” it certainly wasn’t an across-the-board pass from the LGBTQ community. A quick Google search of the terms “Obama” “gay marriage” shows quickly that prominent sites and blogs about LGBTQ issues — The Advocate, The Bilerico Project, GoodAsYou and Towleroad — show that Obama, Hillary Clinton and other Democrats did not get a “pass” on their stances on same-sex marriage or other issues. Bill Clinton, the president who signed the Defense of Marriage Act into law, didn’t receive a pass last year when he wrote an op-ed denouncing the law.

When former Florida governor Charlie Crist announced his support for same-sex marriage in an interview this past winter, he, too, compared his previous stance to that of Obama in 2008, but when comparing himself to Obama, he didn’t simply stop at the man-woman definition of marriage:

The President and I had the same view: we supported civil unions. I saw the interview he did with Robin Roberts last spring [in which he expressed support for same sex marriage]. I’m sure you’ve seen it. It’s powerful, because you can tell he’s speaking from the heart.

I can’t speak for the President, but I suspect that to some degree, like me, he felt his support for civil unions was political. And so he’s finally saying, ‘Enough is enough. I’m over this. I’m not going to play the political angle anymore. I’m tired of it.’ Which is just the way I feel. You get to a point in your life where you say, ‘I’m just going to tell it.’ And here I am… I’m telling it. And I don’t care what anyone thinks.

Similarly, Richard Socarides, a former adviser to Bill Clinton, conceded in a New Yorker piece last year that Bill Clinton’s signing of the Defense of Marriage Act was fueled by politics rather than personal views.

As the tide turns and public opinion changes, more and more famous politicians who opposed same-sex marriage will announce a public change in their stance on the issue. They might use the word “evolved,” like Obama did, or they will cite a family member is the reason for their change of heart, like Republican Rob Portman did in March 2013.

And as they voice their support for same-sex marriage, will their previous stances be compared to those of Barack Obama in 2008?


This week in LGBTQ news, March 31-April 6

April 6th, 2014

The Brendan Eich news was by the far the most-covered piece of LGBTQ news this past week, so to mention anything else before delving into that feels like saying, “Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?” So, here’s what happened:

Brendan Eich, Mozilla and OkCupid
Ten days after being appointed CEO of Mozilla, Brendan Eich resigned. On Monday, a week after Eich’s appointment, dating site OkCupid greeted Firefox users with a message asking that they switch browsers before visiting the site. In an interview published Tuesday on CNet, Brendan Eich said:

[W]ithout getting into my personal beliefs, which I separate from my Mozilla work — when people learned of the donation, they felt pain. I saw that in friends’ eyes, [friends] who are LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered]. I saw that in 2012. I am sorry for causing that pain.

By Wednesday, OkCupid had removed its message to Firefox users, but the next day, Eich resigned.

Hampton Catlin, a developer who couldn’t marry or start a business with his partner until the Supreme Court ruled last year that backers of Proposition 8 lacked standing, had blogged that he and his husband Michael would be pulling their product from the Mozilla Marketplace. After Eich’s resignation, Hampton Catlin wrote:

I met with Brendan and asked him to just apologize for the discrimination under the law that we faced. He can still keep his personal beliefs, but I wanted him to recognize that we faced real issues with immigration and say that he never intended to cause people problems.

It’s heartbreaking to us that he was unwilling to say even that.

We absolutely don’t believe that everyone who voted yes on Prop 8 is evil. In fact, we’re sure that most of them just didn’t understand the impact the law would have. That’s why so many people have changed their mind in 4 short years – because they saw the impact and pain that the law caused to friends and family members.

People think we were upset about his past vote. Instead we were more upset with his current and continued unwillingness to discuss the issue with empathy. Seriously, we assumed that he would reconsider his thoughts on the impact of the law (not his personal beliefs), issue an apology, and then he’d go on to be a great CEO.

The fact it ever went this far is really disturbing to us.

Friday, the National Organization for Marriage called for “Americans to remove the web browser Mozilla Firefox from their personal computers to protest the company forcing out its CEO over his support of Proposition 8.” NOM President Brian Brown said, “This is a McCarthyesque witch hunt that makes the term ‘thought police’ seem modest. We urge all consumers to remove Mozilla’s Firefox web browser from their computers as a sign of protest.”

For more context:
*Brendan Eich Steps Down As Mozilla CEO [The Mozilla Blog]
*OkCupid’s Firefox protest refreshingly innovative [The Boston Globe]
*Gay marriage, Mozilla’s Brendan Eich, and the role of a CEO [The Los Angeles Times]
*The Hounding of a Heretic [Andrew Sullivan, The Dish]
*Dear Andrew Sullivan, ‘Left-Liberal Intolerance’ Did Not Bring Down Mozilla’s CEO [Michelangelo Signorile, HuffPost Gay Voices]
*The New Gay Orthodoxy [Frank Bruni, The New York Times]
*Quinn: Brendan Eich, Mozilla’s former chief executive, needed to tell us more [San Jose Mercury News]


In case you missed it, here are some of the OTHER biggest news pertaining to LGBTQ issues to come out of the last week:

Judge struck down part of Ohio gay marriage law
A federal judge said Friday that he will order Ohio to recognize out-of-state gay marriages. Judge Timothy Black made the announcement in federal court in Cincinnati following final arguments in a lawsuit that challenged the constitutionality of the marriage ban. He said he will issue the ruling on April 14. This would only pertain to marriages performed out-of-state, and would not force Ohio to perform same-sex marriages.


Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act
Mississippi governor Phil Bryant signed the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which supporters said would protect religious freedoms but opponents thought could open the doors to discrimination against gays and lesbians. The bill has been compared to similar legislation that was passed in Arizona earlier this year before ultimately being vetoed by Governor Jan Brewer.

For more context:
*Melissa Harris-Perry’s letter to Phil Bryant about putting rights in God’s hands [MSNBC]


Alabama representatives vote for US constitutional ban on gay marriage
The Alabama House of Representatives Wednesday approved a resolution calling for a convention to put a same-sex marriage ban in the US Constitution. Representative Patricia Todd, Alabama’s first openly gay legislator, said on the House floor, “I respect your opinion about the way I live my life and who I love, as I respect yours. I am appalled that this chamber would have resorted to something like this to make a point.”

The concept of an amendment to the US constitution to ban same-sex marriage is not new. Two days after the US Supreme Court issued its rulings on the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8 in June 2013, Representative Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, along with 28 other Republican members of the House of Representatives, proposed the Marriage Protection Amendment, which would amend the US constitution to define marriage as between a man and woman only. In February 2004, President George W. Bush announced support for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.


Five years of gay marriage in Iowa
Thursday was the fifth anniversary of the day that Iowa’s Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in a unanimous decision that made Iowa the third state — and the first in the Midwest — to allow same-sex couples to wed.

For more context:
*2009 Iowa ruling seen as gay-marriage harbinger [USA Today, The Des Moines Register]
*Iowa gay marriage ruling a turning point for justices [USA Today, The Des Moines Register]
*Same-Sex Marriage in Iowa at Five Years: Is The Trend Towards Acceptance? [KCRG]


Gay Boy Scout leader removed from troop
The Boy Scouts of America removed an openly gay troop leader in Seattle, saying he made an issue out of his sexual orientation. The organization told Geoff McGrath in a letter Monday it “has no choice” but to revoke his registration after he said he was gay while being profiled by NBC News. The BSA has allowed gay scouts to participate in the organization since Jan. 1 of this year.

For more context:
*‘Extremely Disappointing’: Scouts Boot Openly Gay Troop Leader [NBC News]


This week in LGBTQ news, March 24-30

March 30th, 2014

In case you missed it, here are some of the biggest news pertaining to LGBTQ issues to come out of the last week:

New Mozilla’s Proposition 8 donation leads to calls for his resignation
Mozilla’s newly appointed CEO, Javascript creator Brendan Eich, is coming under fire for his 2008 donation in support of Proposition 8. Two developers who are married and launched a tech startup together have called for a boycott until Eich is removed as CEO. By the end of last week, some Mozilla employees asked that he step down.

For more context:
*Three Mozilla Board Members Resign over Choice of New CEO [Wall Street Journal]
*Should it matter that Mozilla’s new boss donated to California’s anti-gay marriage proposition? []
*Owen Thomas’ open letter to Brendan Eich []
*Brendan Eich’s post about Inclusiveness as Mozilla []
*On Mozilla’s Support for Marriage Equality [Mitchell Baker's blog]


World Vision announces it will allow same-sex marriage for employees, then reverses stance
On Monday, World Vision President Richard Stearns announced that the Christian relief charity’s code of conduct would now allow employees of its American branch to enter into same-sex marriage marriages. The company lost more than 3,000 donors, and by Wednesday, reversed the decision.

For more context:
*Analysis: World Vision’s gay marriage flip-flop reflects evangelical angst as culture shifts [Salt Lake Tribune]
*World Vision’s reversal on marriage policy for gay workers is start of a conversation [Seattle Times]


Stay on same-sex marriages in Michigan extended, but those marriages will be recognized
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder said the state won’t recognize more than 300 same-sex marriages performed before a court halted a decision that opened the door to gay nuptials. The announcement came a day after an appeals court indefinitely stopped any additional same-sex marriages. By the end of the week, US Attorney General Eric Holder extended federal recognition to the marriages of about 300 same-sex couples that took place in Michigan.

For more context:
*Bill Schuette: Defending traditional marriage is defending the state constitution [Detroit Free Press]
*Nancy Kaffer: Gov. Snyder needs to take a stand on issues like gay marriage [Detroit Free Press]
*The history of same-sex marriage in the US, 1970 to now [The Boston Globe]


US police to get training on how to respond to transgender crime victims
The Justice Department launched a program Thursday to train local police departments to better respond to transgender individuals, help police identify hate crimes and build trust with a community that law enforcement officials say is too often reluctant to report crimes.

For more context:
*Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and HIV-Affected Hate Violence in 2012 [The Anti-Violence Project]


Gay marriage begins in England, Wales
As of Saturday, same-sex couples in England and Wales are now legally able to get married. The law was passed by Parliament in July, and Prime Minister David Cameron has been a vocal supporter.

For more context:
*UK’s first same-sex marriages go ahead as PM speaks of ‘powerful message’ [The Guardian]
*Cameron toasts Britain’s first gay marriages [Reuters]
*David Cameron: I never expected gay marriage to cause such an uproar [The Daily Mail]


How it appeared in the newspaper vs. online: Movie psychopaths

January 26th, 2014

In today’s Ideas section of The Sunday Globe, Boston Globe Graphics Editor (and my boss) Chiqui Esteban put together a graphic examining psychopaths from the movies. The graphic accompanies a Q&A with psychiatry professor Samuel Leistedt, who watched 400 movies, identified 126 psychopathic characters, sorted them into four broad clinical categories, and released his findings last month.
Click the image below to see a larger version.

As people would walk by our desks and comment on how cool the graphic was shaping up to be, we would tell them, “Just wait till you see how this plays online.

The print graphic was able to include images of just some of the characters, but for the version, we had images for each of the 126 characters in Leistedt’s report. Online, Chiqui created a sortable datable where users could sort between type, gender and primary/secondary. Additionally, he added a slider, allowing users to isolate the time frames.



Additionally, I added a link to a PDF of today’s Ideas page so that users how the piece ran in print. In my gay marriage project for, I’ve been including PDFs of Boston Globe front pages as a way of playing up’s archiving potential. When possible, I’ve tried to include links to past projects, whether those links are to other web projects or PDFs of newspaper pages.

This web version of the psychopaths graphic benefitted from Chiqui’s knowledge from past projects. He has done lots of good web graphics making use of sortable databases that show or hide an array of variables:

As you can see, the web version has a different feel to it from the print version. But that’s OK. That’s going to be true for most graphics that have both print and web components, because of a few variables:

  • The print versions are constrained by whether the page is color or not. The web version, of course, can appear in a golconda of colors. In this case, the use of colors allowed us to color-code the four types of psychopaths that Leistedt included in his survey. In a quick glance, you can see the variety.
  • The total print version can be seen at once. But on the web, the interactive can’t be seen all at once, as the user will scroll and/or click to see more.
  • Whether you’re reading the newspaper in downtown Boston or Newton or all the way out in Maine, you’ll see the graphic at the same size on a page that has the same dimensions. The web version, of course, varies based on the size of your screen.
  • The print reader can’t sort, click, show or hide any of the information presented to him/her. But the user of the interactive graphic can have all of those options.
  • Because you can see photos with all 126 characters, the user can get a more complex view of the variety of psychopathy in the movies.
  • The option to not sort is just as important as the option to sort. This list includes quite a disparate list, ranging from Don Corleone to Chucky to Patrick Bateman to Thelma and Louise to Bonnie and Clyde. That covers a lot of ground, and I think we’re doing a service to the readers by giving them the options to see it all at once while also giving them the options to only see the subcategories. In print, we’d have to make that decision for them. But if they’re on a desktop or a mobile device, they can decide for themselves with their mouse or their finger.

This ran in The Sunday Globe Ideas section, which reports on ideas, people, books, and trends that would be of interest to intellectuals. It covers lots of ground, and has allowed us to do lots of great graphics. One of my favorite graphics for Ideas was a chart I did showing how Harry Potter and other fantasy characters used Joseph Campbell’s hero myth archetypes.

Go check out Chiqui’s graphic here. Check out Chiqui’s portfolio here.


Does an infographic need to be “memorable” to be good? That might depend on how you define “infographic”

December 9th, 2013

After reading coverage recent study about what makes charts memorable, I was convinced that there is a fundamental divide not only on what constitutes an information graphic, but also on what graphics are meant to do.

I have spent almost 10 years of my life making information graphics. I have moved to another state to take an infographics job not once, but three times. I do not consider maps, charts or diagrams to be a passing fad. Thus, I have a vested interest in how information graphics are received and perceived. I’ll see links on news sites for and “INFOGRAPHIC,” only to find that what I’ve actually clicked on is an image of icons, big numbers, some photos and flashy colors. Friends who have worked for great news agencies have shared recent freelance stories of clients choosing big numbers of multiple colors over data, charts and diagrams. Rather, in my estimation, they are rejecting actual infographics for something else, and they’re calling that “something else” an infographic.

Thus, it was with this sense of frustration that I read a bout a recent study in which people were shown multiple visualizations of data and asked which ones were most memorable. Examples with photos, logos, icons and colors were more memorable than basic charts or pie graphs. Does this serve as validation for the dressed-up web images we see billed as “infographics” on Tumblr, Pinterest and elsewhere these days?

Fortunately, no. Doctoral student Michelle Borkin of Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, who helped conduct the study, said “Icons, images, and human-recognizable objects will instantly make [a visualization] more memorable… But there’s this very careful caveat — and this is me speaking as a viz design person: make sure they’re helping your reader understand the main point of your data.”

I’m glad Borkin made that last point. If you remember a graphic’s presentation but you don’t remember the graphic’s content, is that really a success? I’ve seen pie charts made with actual pies, showing data from Thanksgiving studies. Or so I think. I remember the chart, but I have no memory of what it was trying to tell me.

When discussing this with colleagues at work, I said that while I do not remember all the specific articles I read on Sept. 12, 2001, I do remember the information in those articles. And I think the information and story itself is much more important than the vessel that brought you that information and story, whether the vessel was an article or an information graphic. When you’re showing a declining crime rate, what do you want the reader to ultimately remember: the trend in crime, or that you used a 75% Periwinkle 2-point stroke on the fever chart over two columns? As long as they remember that they saw the chart, and the information within, then I’m happy.

Sometimes, a graphic will require more images and colors than a simple stock chart. But I’d reiterate that decisions made in making infographics should be made because the chart requires it and it helps communicate your ultimate point. If we are adding elements just to “dress it up” or to “make it pretty,” we’re losing focus of the goal of an information graphic. Like a good news article, a good information graphic should convey information clearly in a way that does not confuse the reader. If we end up making decisions about infographics not based on the content, the graphic suffers.

There is a tendency for photos and graphics to be referred to as the page’s “art.” If the lead art falls through, the other photos and graphics on the page sometimes have to change to make up for it. On the idea of information graphics as art, Charles Blow of The New York Times once famously said: “I would like to make a distinction between information graphics and art in terms of their missions. Art need serve no purpose but to express the vision of the artist. On the other hand, the highest purpose of an information graphic is to clearly express the relationships among data. That said, if someone should call a chart art because of its beauty or message, that person would get no argument from me.”


If the live “Sound of Music” was recast with famous quarterbacks

December 7th, 2013

The live version of “The Sound of Music” got a lot of press, tweets and Facebooks. I didn’t watch the broadcast, but I couldn’t help inferring that musical theatre fans thought of this event the way football fans view a BCS bowl game. Thus, I decided to parse the reviews, tweets and posts about this Carrie Underwood version of “The Sound of Music” and match the actors with well-known quarterbacks.

Carrie Underwood was apparently Tim Tebow, plucky and earnest but not universally accepted as “ready for the big time.” If you dislike Tebow, use Blaine Gabbert in this comparison instead. Like Carrie Underwood, Tebow and Gabbert are talented but not showing the desired results because they’re not in roles suitable for their abilities and background. Of course, both Gabbert and Tebow — like Underwood — have naysayers that pan them as just no good.



Stephen Moyer in “True Blood” is Johnny Manziel’s 2012 A&M season: amazing, beloved, worthy of accolades. Stephen Moyer in “The Sound of Music” is Manziel’s 2013 A&M season: not as strong, and certainly not better than his predecessors, but not horrible. He’s in spots, and not commanding or confident, but certainly not abysmal, either.

Tony winners Audra McDonald as the Mother Abbess and Laura Benanti as the Baroness would be Joe Montana and/or Tom Brady: established heavyweights whose awards and years of experience as winners have shown they have the chops. Brady might be hated, but remember, those nuns and the Baroness were kind of bitchy.

The rest of the cast of the live broadcast of “The Sound of Music” was less discussed, partially because so much attention was spent talking about Underwood’s perceived weaknesses or the impressive performances by Benanti and McDonald. With that perspective in mind, the collective cast could be seen as middle-of-the-pack South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw: decent, but not so bad or so good that he merits a lengthy discussion.

But given the circumstances, all of these players, both on the field and on the stage, are doing the best they can do. And way better than I could do as a singer. Or as a quarterback. Or as a singing quarterback.


How’s gay marriage interactive graphic came to be

December 2nd, 2013

Today is the first day that Hawaii allows same-sex marriage. The state was the 16th to approve allowing gay marriage, and becomes the 15th to begin performing them. Illinois’ state legislature approved same-sex marriage a few days before Hawaii, but that law won’t go into effect until summer of 2014.

For the last four months, I have been editing and updating this interactive graphic about the history of same-sex marriage in the United States. In short, there’s a sticky navigation that stays with you when you scroll through the timeline, show maps and tallies that change as states allow gay marriage, ban gay marriage or allow civil unions or domestic partnerships. The timeline includes links to archived stories, copies of bills and statutes, and PDFs of past Globe front pages.

The landscape as of 1996:

As of the 2004 election:

As of today, when Hawaii becomes the 15th state to allow same-sex marriage:

This sticky bar is just part of the graphic, of course, as the timeline is what triggers the changes in colors.





I conceived this project right after the Supreme Court ruled on Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act. In the days that followed, we had many stories about what impact these rulings could bring. These stories usually included maps that more or less looked like this:

Those maps can be tricky to read, because they cram five different types of states into one map:
*States allowing gay marriage
*States allowing civil unions or domestic partnerships, but not gay marriage
*States banning gay marriage by constitutional amendment
*States banning gay marriage by constitutional amendment, but allowing civil unions or domestic partnerships
*The default states, not identified, which have no constitutional reference to gay marriage

These maps are helpful to glean the overall splintering of the issue, and can be used to parse out laws state by state, but are still busier than need be. I wanted was something easier to read, and after talking with Boston Globe AME for Design Dan Zedek, I decided three separate maps would work best. But even then, I thought the map alone didn’t show how much the map has changed over time.

To truly get at the heart of the story, I thought, we needed three interactive maps that changed over time.

It was late June and I set myself an August 1 deadline. I picked that date because that’s when Rhode Island and Minnesota would begin performing same-sex marriages.

So, I set to work on a variety of tasks:
*Researching gay marriage laws and milestones, both on national and state-by-state levels
*Compiling links of past stories on the milestones, both to add to the timeline and to CQ the dates I had found
*Compiling photos from those events
*Building the framework for this responsive graphic using jQuery, JavaScript and CSS
*Testing it to see where it broke
*Refining, revising, refining and more revising

As I revised this, former Boston Globe Graphics Director Javier Zarracina was very helpful in giving me advice on tweaking the design. He was also very accommodating in giving me the time to work on this project.




I reached the August 1 deadline.

For the Metro section of the paper that day, Boston Globe Assistant Design Director for News Robert S. Davis conceived a tease graphic that could anchor the page and promote the online graphic:

Once I launched this on August 1, I would update this whenever new developments occurred. The summer and fall of 2013 saw a bunch new developments, of course, as federal agencies and state agencies began changing policies to be inclusive of married same-sex couples. I ended up having more than 100 events on the timeline. Thus, per the suggestion of Robert Davis, I divided the news stories into “key events” and “other.” The page now loads with only the key events, but the sticky nav with the maps includes a link to click that shows all the events.

This project has spawned the most unwieldy-looking Excel file I’ve ever used:

I mean, just looking at that gives me a headache.





Using Shan Carter’s great resource, Mr. Data Converter, I turned that beast of an Excel file into a JSON file. The jQuery reads that and appends a main div on the page with a div for each event, including nested divs for the headline, the text, the photos, the captions and the links.

The maps are SVG, taken from a template that Chiqui Esteban created for our department. When the timeline is scrolled through, the color and tally changes are triggered by div IDs when those IDs are near the top of the screen.





The obvious ones — “Illinois to approve gay marriage,” for example — present themselves. The less obvious ones come from the AP wire, Google searches and a great app that has been invaluable in this process.

Zite functions like Google News in that you can have personalized categories for your news feed. Furthermore, it lets you give a story a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down,” like Pandora.

I check Zite throughout the day, particularly on its feed for “Same-sex marriage.” It often has things that are on my radar, but it has also allowed me to find stories that I wouldn’t have known were coming.

Gay news blogs have also been invaluable. I never source a gay news blog, but I will often follow their links to news sources that I can source: The Associated Press and other newspapers. In the same vein, Twitter has also been a good way to find stories. The #gaymarriage hashtag brings up a lot of opinions, but it has helped me find stories in other states.




What’s next is that I’ll keep updating this as gay marriage news continues to happen. Naturally, you’ll need to check to see the updates.


A look at the Boston Globe’s Boston Marathon bombing infographics

April 22nd, 2013

This past week, the graphic artists and page designers at the Boston Globe did some great work to explain what happened at the Boston Marathon and during the manhunt. I was out of town for much of the week, so I only worked on a few graphics. The great graphic work from the Globe this past week was a huge effort by colleagues James Abundis, David Butler, Robert S. Davis, Chiqui Esteban, Kevin Golden, graphics director Javier Zarracina and assistant managing editor Dan Zedek.

Here are some of the graphics produced this past week. To see larger versions, click on any images.


Graphics director Javier Zarracina put together this map Monday, the day of the bombings, for Tuesday’s paper. This is not pointed due north, but rather due southwest, for perspective.

Boston Globe graphics after Boston Marathon bombings


Here’s a slightly zoomed-out view of the finish area, showing a little more detail.



Boston Globe graphics after Boston Marathon bombings


Here’s the area that was treated as a crime scene the days after the blast:

Boston Globe graphics after Boston Marathon bombings


For Sunday’s paper, we ran vignettes of people who had been at and near the finish line when the bombs went off. The map shows where they were, and what happened to them after the explosions. This was part of a special “Terror at the Marathon” section designed by Robert S. Davis.

There were several reporters on this, as the gang byline at the bottom shows. It took some coordination to plot who was where, and then to triple-check all of it. David Filipov and Steve Wilmsen served as the main point persons on this, and were key to producing this map.


Boston Globe graphics after Boston Marathon bombings


To read the story, click here.

To see Chiqui Esteban’s interactive graphic of this map, click here.


For Wednesday’s paper, James Abundis put together this in-depth look inside the medical tent that was turned into a functional triage unit. Click on the image to see more. Lots of detail in this graphic.

Boston Globe graphics after Boston Marathon bombings

To read the story, click here.


As more detail about the actual bombs emerged, James Abundis put together this graphic.

Boston Globe graphics after Boston Marathon bombings


How the manhunt unfolded Friday:

Boston Globe graphics after Boston Marathon bombings


Boston Globe graphics after Boston Marathon bombings


As details emerged about the Tsarnaev brothers, attention turned to their journey from Kyrgyzstan to Cambridge.

Boston Globe graphics after Boston Marathon bombings


Again, it must be said that the great graphic work from the Globe this past week was a huge effort by colleagues James Abundis, David Butler, Robert S. Davis, Chiqui Esteban, Kevin Golden, graphics director Javier Zarracina and assistant managing editor Dan Zedek.






INFOGRAPHIC: ‘Golden Girls’ to ‘Desperate Housewives’

May 15th, 2012

Sunday’s series finale of “Desperate Housewives” provided me and my colleagues at The Boston Globe the opportunity to create a graphic showing how the show fits in with other TV shows with female foursomes. The concept was simple: “Desperate Housewives” is going away, but the archetypes that defined each character has been around on TV for a while, at least since “The Golden Girls.” And seems to continue with the new show, “Girls.”

Here’s the chart that ran on Sunday’s Arts section of The Boston Globe. Click for a larger view.

Boston Globe chart comparing Desperate Housewives, Golden Girls, Sex And The City, Hot In Cleveland, Living Single, Designing Women, Girls


Click on the links to the version and the version.



I had a professor who taught me several important things, but two things are important for this graphic:

  1. Anything can inspire an information graphic, whether it be a press release or a musing you have at a coffee shop.
  2. The characters in “Sex And The City” are perfect counterparts to the characters in “Golden Girls.”

In the years that have followed, I realized he was right. First, anything can lend itself to a graphic. I have several graphics in my portfolio that started out as conversations. I blogged last summer about a chart using the archetypes described in Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero With a Thousand Faces” to compare characters from the Harry Potter series, “Star Wars” and other franchises. It was a great blending of some of my favorite things: academic-minded critiques, pop culture and infographics.

Just as that graphic started with me talking about how Harry Potter was similar to other movies, this “Desperate Housewives” chart started with me talking with friends. I repeated my professor’s statement that the “Sex And The City” characters were very similar to the “Golden Girls” characters. When I’d tell this to people, they’d instantly see that Samantha was Blanche and that Charlotte was Rose. But what about Carrie? Was she Dorothy or Sophia? There were compelling arguments that she was Dorothy and Miranda was Sophia, but just as many people said Carrie was Sophia and Miranda was Dorothy.

Around this same time, “Desperate Housewives” premiered on ABC. I immediately watched, because it had not one but TWO “Melrose Place” alums: Marcia Cross and Doug Savant. I was hooked on this show that seemed equally inspired by “Knots Landing” drama, John Waters’ campiness and “Twin Peaks”-style darkness.

As it became apparent that this would be the last season, I came up with several graphic possibilities for the end of “Desperate Housewives.” The idea of viewing the show in a broader context seemed most appealing, because I knew that something too focused on the show wouldn’t get any play. I began to wonder how the ladies of Wisteria Lane fit in with “Golden Girls” and “Sex And The City.”

I floated the idea to a few people to test their interest. The debates were pretty good, and I realized I had a winner on my hands. I didn’t know if it would be something that the Boston Globe wanted, so I initially pitched it to I ended up getting several e-mails that indeed this could have a home in print and online.


The more I talked with editors, it was apparent that we could use several shows in this graphic. “Designing Women” had a similar formula, as did Betty White’s new show, “Hot In Cleveland.” “Girlfriends” and “Living Single” seemed to line up with this, as did “Noah’s Arc,” which was about four gay black men in Los Angeles. But if used shows about men, would we also use “Entourage”? It could become very unwieldy.

The solution was to run six in print. We cut “Hot In Cleveland” from the print version and instead used “Girls” as the modern show. But we kept “Hot In Cleveland” for the web versions. Michael Brodeur took my original text and punched it up, giving it some flair and humor. I had never seen “Girls,” so he helped identify which categories fit which characters.

I created two web versions, because this would live on both and The sites have different palettes and styles, of course, but there’s another hitch. I had to design the version responsively, meaning that I had to make sure it could be viewed (and readable!) on any browser, on any platform, on any screen, at any size.

You saw the chart at the top of the page. How can that be read on a mobile device?

Here’s how one of the TV shows would appear on the iPhone’s portrait view of the version:

And here’s how a show would look in the iPhone’s landscape view, or on some tablets:

On larger screens, it appeared the way it did in print: as a full grid.
Click on the links to the version and the version.