Matt Gemmell, patronage, and Vincent Van Gogh

January 20, 2015

Yesterday, Matt Gemmell made a great case for patronage as a way to support the long-term survival of the creative works we enjoy:

The reality is that creative output involves cost - whether it’s at the professional end, with staff and materials and print runs or editing suites, or in the spare-bedroom office of the independent artist, where the cost is time, and what else might have been accomplished during it.

If we don’t support the things we love, with actual money, those things will go away. If we ignore the kickstarter campaigns, and block the ads, and read the content without supporting the author, and pirate the apps, sooner or later we’ll lose those things altogether.

Matt made the jump last year from a successful career in software development to an uncertain career in writing, and that is terrifying. I know, because I’m doing it, too. The uncertainty of not knowing if you’ll make it is by far the most difficult thing to deal with on a daily basis, at least for me personally. And by “making it” I don’t mean fame and fortune, mind you. I mean earning just enough to pay the bills and keep the lights on. That’s how high the stakes are for most creative people.

I’m sure Matt will make it, he’s just too good a writer not to. That’s what my instinct as a discerning reader tells me. However, a more troubling thought is that his future is not entirely in his hands anymore. We like to think that the creative industry is a meritocracy: great apps earn millions, bad apps don’t. Great authors get published, and bad writers don’t. It’s a comforting notion, but reality is seldom that clear-cut. Unfortunately, there have been plenty of great artists before Matt with talent to spare, who never actually managed to make a living out of their creative work. You’ve all heard about Van Gogh, but there are millions of Van Goghs out there today: great artists with passion, dedication and creative vision that are completely devoid of any means of support, to the point that they can’t afford to pursue their creative goals anymore. That’s tragic, and it’s largely on us.

We all love reading success stories. It’s inspiring to see how someone can have a successful career by doing what they love. But for each story we see, there are hundreds more we’re oblivious to. In the real world, Van Gogh is still struggling to sell his paintings.

The good news is, it doesn’t take much to make things better, but we all need to do our part. I’ve been supporting the work of my favorite authors for a long time, either by becoming a patron or a member, or by buying their books whenever I can. It’s not always easy but I try to put my money — my actual money, as Matt so eloquently put it — where my mouth is.

These incredibly brave authors are facing a world of uncertainty very few people could handle, and it’s not just them: their families are sharing the burden as well. If even one of them had to give up their creative work because they can’t earn enough to make a decent living, the Internet would be a darker place for me. Unfortunately, there’s only so much any one of us can do individually. Unless we collectively start valuing creative people and their craft in terms of actual money and not just praise or readership, we’ll continue to incur a huge risk that one day they’ll be gone, never to return.

As a creative person myself, I’ll admit to having a vested interest in this. I’ve been working full-time on Analog Senses since August and while readership is steadily growing, it’s still nowhere near big enough to be a sustainable business. I don’t even mean a sustainable full-time business, although that is what my vision for the site is. I still have a few months to go and I’ll keep working my ass off to make it, but there’s no guarantee it’ll work, and that’s sometimes frightening. There are several strategies I can and will try that have proven successful in the past, like weekly sponsorships and subtle ad placement, but those usually only go so far. The day is coming when I’ll need to ask for reader support in one way or another and then my fate, just as Matt’s, will not be in my hands anymore.

In the meantime, I only hope I can prove myself and provide enough value to you, dear reader, that you’ll consider supporting me when the time comes. I don’t know if things will work out or if I’ll be left to chop off my own ear1 but whatever happens, I’ve made my peace with it and I’m determined to find out.

  1. Figuratively speaking, of course. I apologize if that was too graphic.

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The 007th Chapter, a literary meditation by Jacques Stewart →

January 20, 2015 |

What a mind-bogglingly thorough collection of essays on the literary version of James Bond by Jacques Stewart. Take the Dr. No entry, for instance:

Albeit with mild erosion of the Casino Royale paragon – his impetuousness in Diamonds are Forever, his accidental brute force and luck succeeding in From Russia with or without Comma – the Bond of the first five novels is prima facie a competent man whom we are invited / required to admire, lest the fallacy of the wish-fulfilment enterprise collapse. Not without flaws, certainly, but tending towards the classically “heroic”. The man introduced in 1953 is a tank-tough archetype with habits and pleasures intended to engender post-War envy; despite a jaundiced view of his trade, a success. The character flourishes of the third, fourth and fifth books are not presented as egotistical faults nor manifestations of defective reason. To an extent, the end of FRWL shows the fluke finally expiring and an invitation to the reader to reflect on how precarious – and unlikely – his previous successes were; how long can luck (believed in or not) continue, before shaming Skyfall downfall? How close to failure has he always been? I’d argue that such contemplation only arises after reading this book: the reason From Russia with Love’s ending is a “shock” is because up to then, we’re not expecting Bond to fail. Now, we can’t be quite so confident of his success. The series pivoted and crashed down, too. Put the same ending on (say) Thunderball and it’d be no surprise at all.

One of the things I enjoy most about Daniel Craig’s Bond is that we’ve actually seen him try and fail. He’s not invincible anymore, and he often gets the job done only at great personal cost. In a way that takes a little bit away from the myth — the suave, cold-blooded spy with nerves of steel and a bulletproof liver — but after decades of overused clichés and impossible last-second escapes, maybe this was the only way to revitalize the franchise. The current interpretation is closer to the literary Bond than ever before and I just hope Spectre continues the trend, because I’m loving every minute of it.

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The Hobonichi Techo planner →

January 20, 2015 |

Josh Ginter:

There are a couple things which make the Techo stand out from the rest of the crowd. Its compact size, its page-per-day format, and its Tomoe River paper make it a true jack-of-all-trades in the planner world. So much so, in fact, that I don’t necessarily think it’s fair to call the Techo a “planner” per se. The Techo could be used as a planner, but it could instead be used as a journal, a daily log, or a simple notebook. Its utility is endless.

I dare you to look at Josh’s jaw-droppingly gorgeous photos and not rush to buy this planner the second you’re done.

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Introducing Alila Purnama, a pirate ship turned luxury hotel →

January 20, 2015 |

Messy Nessy:

I would probably walk the plank if it meant getting myself aboard Alila Purnama. Fortunately, aboard this handcrafted ship, entertainment is less about sword fights and more about mojitos served with a view of the Indian Ocean. Puff Daddy can have his shiny show-off yacht, I want to travel the seas like Francis Drake (or at least like Francis Drake in retirement).

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

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Cinematic Montage II →

January 19, 2015 |

This movie montage is the precise definition of awesome. Perhaps one too many superhero movies for my taste, but still. So cool:

Via Rands.

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Jason Snell on podcast recording →

January 19, 2015 |

Excellent and very informative article by Jason Snell:

While I think it’s true that many people underestimate how much work goes into making a podcast, I also get the sense that other people overestimate the time I spend. And depending on what kind of a podcast you’re creating, the amount of time required to put it together can vary widely. The average episode of The Incomparable probably takes three or four hours to edit; the average TV Talk Machine I can turn around in 10 minutes.

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Shawn Blanc’s Core Curriculum →

January 19, 2015 |

I really enjoyed this piece by Shawn Blanc:

But what is important is remembering foundational principles for how to live life and to live it well. Our values, ideals, thoughts, emotions, and habits are bombarded every day by the media. Movies, commercials, TV shows, and so much more tell us how we ought to live and what we should believe. Which is why our Core Curriculum notebook should be comprised of things that speak truth to who we are, who we want to be, and what we want to do.

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Korea on Film: Portra, Ektar & Superia by Tyler Stalman →

January 15, 2015 |

One of my favorite things about the Internet is its seemingly infinite ability to surprise me with awesome things. Take this drop-dead gorgeous photo essay by Canadian photographer Tyler Stalman, for example. I ran into it while researching the properties of the Kodak Ektar 100 color negative film for shooting landscapes and people. Well, what better way to find out than seeing it in action in one of the most vibrant and exotic places on the planet?

Even if the Ektar film ultimate proved disappointing for shooting people, this amazing story more than made up for it — and whatever you do, don’t miss part two, which contains plenty of images shot in the trendy Gangnam. So cool.

Whenever you hear someone say “film is the medium of the masters”, this is what they’re talking about.

On a side note, Tyler’s story is definitive proof that high-quality photo gear doesn’t need to be expensive: all pictures in this story were shot using a Canon Elan 7e film camera and two prime lenses, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 lens — also known as the “nifty-fifty” — and the EF 40mm f/2.8 pancake lens. You could pick up all three for under $500, which is less than the cost of just one good Micro Four Thirds prime lens.

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Paul Stamatiou on traveling and photography →

January 15, 2015 |

Paul Stamatiou creates some fantastic photo stories of the trips he makes. I first discovered him last year, when I saw the one he made after returning from Japan. These photo stories are gorgeous, beautifully designed, and the pictures are stunning. In this article — the first of two parts — he does a wonderful job of explaining how he approaches the issue of planning for a trip. If you appreciate travel photography, this is a must-read:

A result of moving apartments just about every year since 2004, I’ve been pretty good at keeping my posessions to a minimum (camera gear aside, obviously :D). I try to own fewer, higher quality items and often they’re only items that augment my travel experiences — portable stuff like good clothes, camera gear or simply last minute airline tickets and car rentals. I’d rather spend money on experiences than things that will tie me down to one place.

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Mark Bylok’s dad had a secret →

January 14, 2015 |

What a beautiful piece by Mark Bylok, author of The Whisky Cabinet:

Learning of my dad’s secret helped me prioritize my writing. He died with an unpublished poetry collection. I had an opportunity to change my own future. Unlike before, I was able to focus on getting published. I’ve replaced some movie watching and lazy weekends with writing. The first year after his death my writing seemed to be going nowhere, but with practice, things started to change.

I’m so happy for Mark. I can’t wait to get my hands on my copy of The Whisky Cabinet.

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