Infinite Jest

Somewhere around March at the beginning of quarantine in Hungary, a friend and I started to read Infinite Jest. One of the social/political podcasts called Partizán, launched a Sunday book club with the translators and we’ve been following along since then. The book is the thickest and most complicated reads of my life so far, it’s 1100 pages long in a very big format (not only good for reading but weight lifing excercises too) written in 8pt font size. But hey, I like literary challenges!

What’s Infinite Jest?

A gargantuan, mind-altering comedy about the Pursuit of Happiness in America.

Set in an addicts’ halfway house and a tennis academy, and featuring the most endearingly screwed-up family to come along in recent fiction, Infinite Jest explores essential questions about what entertainment is and why it has come to so dominate our lives; about how our desire for entertainment affects our need to connect with other people; and about what the pleasures we choose say about who we are. 

Equal parts philosophical quest and screwball comedy, Infinite Jest bends every rule of fiction without sacrificing for a moment its own entertainment value. It is an exuberant, uniquely American exploration of the passions that make us human—and one of those rare books that renew the idea of what a novel can do.

At this point, I’m around 70% and I don’t ever want this book to end. For people like me, who deal with mental health issues every day it’s comforting to see that others have the same problems, and everybody here has a way more fucked up life than mine. This is something that I have on my mind a lot lately, I get up with it, I sleep with it, I do my daily exercise listening to the podcast because it has so many aspects and layers. A year ago it wouldn’t have been a great time for me to read this novel, it would’ve made me feel worse, but this time it was a match made in heaven. I try to progress with it portion by portion, but I’m already 3 sections ahead of the weekly podcast.

I have 300 pages left, but I’m so rooting for all the characters (my biggest favorites are Mario, Hal, and Madame Psychosis) to leave their pathologies behind. However, I think it’s a false hope, as Wallace stated that he “wanted to do something sad“, and reading myself through the 2/3 of the book, I guess he accomplished this goal. I started reading in ebook format, which is convenient because of the excessive number of footnotes (there are 388 footnotes, and some of the footnotes have footnotes too), but I felt that I want this on my bookshelf, so I changed to the hard copy at around 400 pages in.

I had a lot of ideas to visualize based on the book, from subsidized time to how Escathon works, but I found the data of all the Incandenza films and the detailed analysis of the chapters on GitHub by Glenn Slotte. So it was destined to be this one. Check it out on Tableau Public for more details.

Important to note, that I found some great visualizations from the book on the net, one of my favorites is a network of the characters, the other is an Escathon related one.

The inspiration came from Pinterest, where I saw this poster below. I experimented with brushes and grains in Illustrator to achieve the same effect, but I ended up using clean vector shapes for my tennis court. This poster gives back the feeling of the book like nothing else, to me, it’s perfection.

There’s a very funny article on The New Yorker on How To Read Infinite Jest, and this is the 6th point:

Take selfie with book “accidentally” in background. Post on social media. Respond to dazzled commenters with “I guess size does matter. ;)”

So here I am, posing with the book. Some say a picture can tell a thousand words, but this only tells three: I’m an intellectual. 😀 This novel is said to be the flagship of Generation Y, while Ulysses is known to be the same for Generation X. So that might be my next big literary challenge for 2021.

Budapest, you have my heart

I was pretty active on Pinterest recently, looking for new inspiration. A couple of weeks ago I came across a series called City Facts. The common theme is, that they lay some useful information over the picture of the selected city, and it just looks awesome. Check it out on Tableau Public.

This one I made of Budapest is 90% done in Illustrator (the rest in Tableau), I collected the facts from Wikipedia and Numbeo. There are some basic tricks I did to make the viz look appealing and make it clear despite the visual noise. I made the map with the help of the pen tool, I just downloaded a pic from the internet, added it to my canvas and drew over it. The only pure white label on the visual is the title, everything else has at least 66% opacity. The other trick I made is to tone down the beautiful image of Timi Keszthelyi by placing a black rectangle with 40% opacity on top of the picture. This is how the visual looks with and without blackening. Just a simple shape, but such improvement!

Spicing up dashboard titles

I tried to come up with some dashboard title variations, to emphasize that titles can be more than big ass letters. There are so many creative ways to make them beautiful, we just have to look at some good UI implementations. I hope to make similar quick tips in the future on how to apply web design elements in data visualization.

Dark: The End is the Beginning

I watched the first episode of Dark last summer, but after being utterly terrified for an hour I decided this is not for the faint-hearted like me. How wrong I was. For those who are afraid of jumpscares, there’s nothing like that in any of the episodes, just pure old tension and mystery. This series is put together like somethings that only Germans can do. Everything fits its place perfectly, with no holes in the story and almost impossible to find out the twists. Click here to see the interactive version on my Tableau Public profile.

Final Tableau dashboard design

Some weeks ago I gave it another try, instantly I got hooked on binge-watching and started sketching the network on paper. One of my friends told me that I should at least double the size of the canvas and hope I have a big rubber at hand. He was right indeed, but even if it looked like a mess at the end, I managed to fit it to the A4 format.

Sketching on Day 2

From very early on, I knew that I wanted it to look like the God particle wrapped inside the inextricable connection of people. But I just didn’t know how to make a chord chart. I reached out to several people (Toan Hoang and Luke Stanke among many) because I didn’t even know how my data should look like. As a data prep noob, I couldn’t have done this without the help of István Korompai who is the data mastermind behind this visualization. He’s the type of guy who’s always willing to help and comes up with the craziest solutions!

To have the desired effect I had to make a 3D sphere in photoshop to make this blob a living thing. I had two takes, the first was playing with shadows and highlights, the second is creating a glass-like effect. I tried out both but stuck with the first version for the final design.

Having a look now, I might have missed the colors, but I just like how it turned out at the end. The only thing left after following the instructions of Pisti was to load my prepared data into the .twbx file and fix my tooltips. The 3rd and final cycle starts on 27th June on Netflix, so this might refresh memories, but there’s a big spoiler alert here! I loved making this viz and it’s probably my biggest favorite right now.

MythBusters: I can’t draw

Some people say it’s easy for me to sketch wireframes because I can draw. With the help of my superstar mom – who took the time to select and scan my childhood drawings -, I’m gonna bust this myth into tiny pieces. Last week I was searching for a photo of Barbie pony and at the back, I saw a terrible drawing hanging on the wall over the bed of my little brother. I wonder how he could fall asleep looking at that every night. Turns out, I had that Addams Family vibe from pretty early on. Luckily my mom managed to find that piece of art, and I guess this my favorite of all. By the way, I know there’s this new trend of parents having their kid’s drawings tattooed on them, so I told my mom, that it’s okay from my side if she wants to have this on her arm!

I love how detailed the hands are, and also the pedophile looking snowmen with pumpkin heads in the back. The sun must have been so bright that day, that even the eyes of the girls have melted. Bonus point for the minimalist color usage!

Below, you can see our family portrait, as living as it was a photo. I wonder how I could catch that 90s highlights trend when people had blonde streaks in their black hair so vividly when portraying my mother! It’s pretty clear that we inherited our shape of the head from our father, who is the only one not having blue eyes in reality… but also, he never wore anything red, so what the heck.

I know it’s obvious, but this is a painting of Bibione, Italy. See, there were palm trees everywhere! This was one of my favorite family vacations, I had that towel for ages. One night we were strolling down the street from the apartment and I saw the doll of my dreams in a shop-window. I wanted it real bad, and every night I asked my parents to go that way so that I could have a look. I thought I ended up not getting the doll, but months later I received it as a gift for my birthday. I just can’t describe how happy I was when I unpacked the present.

Speaking of celebrations, I think this was the Christmas when I got a volleyball and learned that it’s best to play volleyball outside. Based on the picture we were still having that Bibione tan and got matching pink and blue T-shirts with my brother. But the most interesting thing about this picture is the technique: this was made with scented brush-pens. The light blue smelled (but not tasted) like a Tom & Jerry bubblegum, so that was the first to run short on ink.

Hungary is right in the middle of the wine/beer dividing line, so for a kid growing up here, it’s really hard to decide what kind of a person she wants to be. Judging by this picture you could think that I have chosen at an early stage, but this is a false assumption. I’m not taking sides, I love both.

Gender equality has always been very important to me, you can see that in my world even girls could be princes. One of my favorite tales was Rapunzel from Hanna-Barbera Productions, so I guess that’s her in the tower. Some days ago I rewatched that episode just for the sake of nostalgia but got turned off at the very beginning. Rapunzel’s mother is bitching so hard, that it’s really a challenge to continue. She claims SHE WILL DIE if her husband won’t steal radish from the witch’s garden because that’s the only thing she craves. Anyway, I like the smart usage of white space in this drawing!

The last one I selected is a more mature piece depicting the figures of The Little Mermaid. In this drawing, I started experimenting with infographic elements, as I drew a big bird, a small bird, and a bird. I guess this would also make a good full back tattoo, I don’t want to restrict my mother’s options, I’d be happy to give my consent to this one as well.

Radio Ga-Ga

I made a Lady Gaga viz by accident. I’m not a fan of pop music, but she’s just one of the most talented women of our time. I loved her Five Foot Two documentary, she’s just so ordinary and extraordinary at the same time. Her performance in A Star is Born is giving me the goosebumps by even thinking about it. I’m glad I ended up using her on this design-driven viz. Wanna know what this means? Keep on reading!

Final dashboard design on Tableau Public

I was scrolling through Pinterest and I came across this picture by Kamila, and I wanted to recreate her work somehow. The greatest challenge was to find a good quality png image and then I’ll build my viz around that. The first pic I found was Lady Gaga, so I decided Lady Gaga it is!

I was fully ready with my design before starting to search for data to fill my canvas with. This is not the usual way to do things, but this time it was in line with my intentions. For this type of exercise, the design was superior to data and I was sure to find something that would fit. I had several takes on the layout, but ended up using the fourth for the dashboard.

The last step was adding the data, I found Youtube statistics on for all the Lady Gaga music videos uploaded to her site, the Grammy nominations were gathered from the official page.

FGM in Tanzania

I was called out for using an identifiable image of a person for this viz that can be offensive to her. I can get that, this wasn’t the best move from me. However, it would have been more elegant to send me a message about it than ranting on Twitter. I blurred the image, that still raised some concerns, and I was reported to Pexels by someone so I had to change the pic. I don’t know who has this much time, but I could use some of that. This is the final image I ended up using, the clickable version is available on Tableau Public.

Nationally approximately 10% of women aged 15 to 49 report having undergone female genital mutilation (FGM) in Tanzania, but prevalence is much higher in the Mara region at 32%. The prevalence of FGM varies greatly by ethnic identity and in Tanzania these procedures are predominantly performed as a component of girls’ social initiation. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. Hope for Girls and Women actively participates in community outreach events to open up dialogue within local practising communities and raise awareness.

Final design on Tableau Public


Ken Flerlage made an awesome tutorial on how to create LEGO art in Tableau and I tried it out. One thing I might like better than building LEGOs is binge-watching series, so I combined the two. I already watched 300 hours of content this year, but there were 3 series that blew my mind: Succession, Dark, and Fleabag. I wanted to make something simple, so I choose this photo of Phoebe Waller-Bridge to play around with. It took a couple of hours until everything snapped into its place, but I enjoyed the process a lot. There’s no interactivity here, but you can still check it on Tableau Public.

Final dashboard on Tableau Public
Original picture

Vinyl it is!

I decided to take part in this week’s MakeoverMonday challenge, as the topic was really close to my heart: how has the music industry changed in the past 40 years. The original viz was so great, that I decided to go nuts for donuts with this submission. I wanted to have a vinyl like effect, so I started building a sunburst chart from the data. It took hours to get it look like how I imagined it (transforming the data 3-4 times), and I’m not even that satisfied with the outcome but just didn’t want to spend endless hours on refining it. Take a look at the interactive version on Tableau Public.