Tag Archives: pop culture

A Pause, A Reflection

Happy Birthday to me!

It’s my birthday, and has become our tradition, I am just writing whatever I want for my birthday. Which, as has been fairly pointed out, isn’t much different from any other day of the year.

Except lately, it is different. A little while back, I finally broke down, gave in, and stopped putting out articles, blog posts, and fillers, on a daily basis. I was keeping the dream alive, but with Holly dealing with pregnancy, and one by one our contributors having other parts of life to contend with, it was down largely to me – and I wasn’t doing a very good job of it.

It being my birthday, I am in particular doing the sort of “what am I doing it for and what are we accomplishing by it?” thinking that comes with the passage of time. It’s a reflective time.


I wanted to get started with Comparative Geeks – something we did back in January 2013 – to get myself into a regular habit of writing. Here more recently, however, the focus had fallen onto the “regular” part of the equation, rather than the “writing” part. I honestly haven’t written much of anything resembling an essay in some time, and my poor webcomic has languored since March.

Since we’re hitting a big reset moment here soon – with a baby expected in a month’s time, and us planning to take the end of the year off from the site – the questions I’m asking myself are really, what do I plan on doing when we come back in January?

The pop culture and geek culture stuff that we talk about was always about the content. It’s served us well all this time, it’s what we consume, what we’re interested in. At this point, our consumption is way down, and I think our two podcasts are covering that nicely. We’re consuming far more news than content, for instance, and Week in Geek gives us a nice outlet to talk about the stories of the week. Meanwhile, for more topic-driven and review-based content, Comparative Opinions is a lot of fun to do, and it matches roughly our current ability to consume the culture and commentate on it!

What’s funny, though, is that while these podcasts have been accomplishing the goals of Comparative Geeks, they still haven’t been meeting my writing goal.

And when you get down to it, the writing goal is about content creation, about me taking some of my stories and getting them out there. In the long decision making process of choosing whether I’d prefer to pursue non-fiction or fiction, I leaned to fiction, and I need to get back to that. I’ve missed it.

So if we’re back in January as mainly 2 podcasts a week, an ongoing webcomic story, and the occasional essay or review post, with the occasional piece by contributors, I think the biggest thing is just to feel okay with that. Being happy with what you are doing in life has a lot to do with setting expectations, and I’m currently dealing with changing expectations.

And that’s okay. Because pushing this further to pursue what I want out of it – rather than enforcing some sense of what “ought” to be happening – should lead to something better for everyone.


In closing, I want to say that I don’t tend to think that we – people, humans, individuals, societies – ever have to “peak.” We can be constantly improving, constantly bettering ourselves. Nonetheless, as a personal thought that isn’t quite in line with conventional wisdom, there’s plenty of doubt. But hey, sometimes that doubt is a great song, so it’s worth it, right?

Advertisements

Selling Art Online: Then and Now

My first ventures into online entrepreneurship were stationery and greeting cards. This was the early 2000’s, and the Internet was dotted with tiny webpages hosted by ISPs as an added “perk” for using their services. Free webhosts like Geocities and Webs.com were super popular for artsy types who were looking to connect with one another and share their ideas, design experiments, and free products.

When I first started learning to use photo editing software, there were a million places you could go online for free, detailed courses and tutorials. I wouldn’t be where I am today if not for the free information culture of the early Internet.

I learned how to create my own stationery and templates, how to build a website, how to manage payments and track online orders, and a lot more, all for free without ever having to enter my email address or give out any personal details. I went by the moniker “Lionchilde” for over a decade, and no one needed to know my name.

The difficult part back then was always making sure that your design work was print-ready, and then the upfront expenses of printing and shipping. Your ability to make money was heavily curtailed by how much money you had to spend upfront.

About half of internet users were still on dialup, so “best practices” for designing an image-heavy website involved creating lots and lots of tiny thumbnail galleries that linked to “preview” pages which had images not much bigger. Thumbnails had to be manually generated, either in your image program or with a special utility. (We’d probably call it an “app” today, though I don’t know if anyone would still need a thumbnail generator app. Image hosts generate thumbnails for us, as do WordPress and Blogger.)

WordPress’s thumbnail size.


I got out of selling pre-made art online for a while. Startup costs were high and returns weren’t reliable. I’ve still got a package of cardstock sitting in my house from ’06. This year, I decided to return to to selling premades–from cards to book covers and anything else I feel like. I’ve been exploring the “scene” for papercrafts and checking out various online marketplaces. I’ll report back with observations of a geeky nature as I have them. For now, here are my findings:

These days, there are print on demand stores for just about everything. You can offer digital downloads on Etsy, CreativeMarket, Evanto Marketplace and several others. Of course, that convenience means a considerable chunk of your profit.

You can probably find a lot of information about creating paper products or managing online sales by reading blogs, but if you want a detailed course in photo editing or business finance, you’ll have to pay for it with either your email address or your cash. (And if you “pay” with your email address, you’ll almost certainly be spammed with “added value” that leads to an upsell.)

You can still find plenty of Photoshop tutorials on YouTube, but there don’t seem to be as many for “alternative” software like GIMP or Paint Shop Pro.

The internet seems to be moving steadily, from a culture where information and free content are there to foster community and connection, to one in which information is currency and free content is a bribe for access to your email inbox or social media feeds. On the flip side, access is easier and more streamlined. Print on demand services make it simple and straightforward for designers and artists to earn cash without a great deal of overhead.

There’s been an explosion in processor speeds, hard drive capacity, internet speeds and modes of connectivity since I started selling my art online in the 00s. Internet use has grown exponentially as well. Overall, these advances are positive and have helped me find a way to make money without sucking all the pleasure out of creating things. I’ll keep an archive of free stuff online as long as I can, too.


If you like this card, hop on over to my Zazzle store where you can customize and print it for yourself, or my Creative Market shop where I have a zip file of pre-made ones.

Do They Know It? And Do You?

We’ve been catching up on things and getting life sorted back out now that we’re back from traveling, and some of that has included catching up on our YouTube Channels. Many of them were on hiatus while we were traveling, but some just keep chugging along. One of these is the Fine Brothers’ React channel.

We’ve mentioned the React channel before, and in many ways I think it’s ended up with more of the shows we end up watching from them than their main channel – all the various “X Reacts” shows (on the Fine Brothers Entertainment channel) are great, but we tend to only watch ones where we know what they are reacting to. But there are whole series on the React channel where we watch every one.

So here’s another of those: the “Do they know it?” videos, where they take a group and see if they recognize pop culture. Generally, it’s the youngin’s and they make us feel old by not knowing 80’s culture, or worse, not knowing 90’s culture.

It wasn’t that long ago, right?

Continue reading

Armada by Ernest Cline – A Comparative Review

Yesterday I wrote a review of Armada by Ernest Cline, the hard to describe alien-invasion book set with a full pop-culture background of alien invasion. Because of all the pop culture references, it’s a difficult story to judge on its own merits. Even worse, as you can see from just about any version of its cover or all over its page on Amazon, this is the second book from the guy who brought us Ready Player One.

So the most obvious comparisons are between Armada and Ready Player One. They are both chock full of nostalgia and pop culture and use all of that to very specific, plot-relevant purpose. I know I at least was left asking which one of these two was better – more on that below!

However, even while I listened to the audio book of Armada, I was finishing up reading Childhood’s End by Sir Arthur C. Clarke. Though the book itself is not referenced in Armada, Clarke is and they are both absolutely alien invasion stories. So while there’s a lot of pop culture I could compare Armada to, I’m going to go with Childhood’s End because I was reading them at the same time.

And finally, how about a recent comparison? How about Mass Effect? I think there’s some parallels there, although the comparison is back story for Mass Effect, but the whole plot for Armada!

Hopefully between these three I can try to get at a better explanation of what and how Armada is what it is and does what it does. More spoilers than yesterday, so if you’re looking to go light on those, check out that review!

Continue reading

Armada by Ernest Cline – A Review of the Book

I recently finished reading Armada by Ernest Cline. You’ve probably heard of Ernest Cline from his book Ready Player One, which is currently being produced with Steven Spielberg at the helm (which almost feels like something out of the book…). Ready Player One is set in a crummy mid-twenty-first century where life in the real world is pretty awful, but life in the virtual reality world is awesome – and that virtual world is full of pop culture references (especially from the 80’s). For more on Ready Player One as it relates to Armada, check back tomorrow for my review of Armada compared to other stories.

But first, I wanted to write this review, just about the book. Trying, really hard, to just talk about this book. Because just talking about this book is hard – like Cline’s first novel, this one is full of pop culture references and does not exist alone in the universe. It’s also hard in general to talk about this book without spoilers, something I would like to try to do in this review.

Meaning I had to take a step back. Look at the description of the book on Amazon. And think back to how quickly, in the opening pages, some of the initial questions you have about the book are answered. With all of that, I think it’s safe to say that this is  an alien invasion novel… about alien invasion stories. The book, and the main character, are very genre aware as far as that all goes – and, with video games and the idea of drone warfare, your average gamer could also be the next starfighter ace…

Continue reading