Fund The Arts With Kickstarter!

Hello Beautiful Thinkers,

130313170850-veronica-mars-kickstarter-620xaI’ve been aware of the site Kickstarter for a while now, but it wasn’t until recently that I really thought about looking into the rules behind this fundraising phenomenon.  And not just because the Veronica Mars movie is being funded through this site, but that certainly didn’t send me running in the other direction.  Just in case you’re not familiar with Kickstarter, it’s “a funding platform of creative projects.”  As a user you can contribute either as the person funding or the person creating.

kickstarter-logo-k-colorThe site launched in April of 2009 and has helped find funding for over 35,000 creative projects.  For more complete stats the site has a page that breaks everything down from larger stats like successful and unsuccessful to specific categories of projects like film, art, publishing and many more.  They even have a success rate percentage for each category to give you an idea of what chances your project has.  The current overall success rate is 43.64%, which seems pretty high when you consider that it’s practically free money.

kickstarter-600I bet that perked up some ears, didn’t it Beautiful Thinkers.  Free money?  I like the sound of it too.  There are a few catches though like the all-or-nothing policy, but when you hear their reasoning it all seems pretty fair.  As you can probably guess from the name “all-or-nothing,” when you propose a project on Kickstarter, if you don’t successfully raise your full budget then you don’t get any of the money.  This is the best way to decrease risk of disappointment.  As they put it on the site, “if you need $5,000, it’s tough having only $1,000 and a bunch of people expecting you to complete a $5,000 project.”

Those people expecting you to complete a project might not be getting any cut of the profit, but they are still your investors.  They still get something in return for their funds toward the project, which can vary from project to project.  If the project is to mass-produce something, often times they get a copy of whatever was produced, be it a game, CD, book, etc.  Kickstarter offers some suggestions as to what to offer as a project reward but ultimately it’s up to the project creator to decide what the rewards is.

Alright so having to give a reward kind of makes it seem less like “free money,” but if the project is successful the profits are all yours.  If you have the right idea and the means to do it with just a little financial help, Kickstarter might be the place for you.  Check out the project guidelines to make sure your project is right for this platform.  If it’s a fit for you then good luck and have fun with your video.  If there’s anything that’s going to attract more funding to a project it’s that the creators show their passion and are entertaining.  And if you’re one of those generous enough to help fund a project, maybe we should talk some time.  I’m only kidding.  Maybe.

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The Kerouac Project: Scoring Orlando Literary Cool Points!

Hello Beautiful Thinkers,

6a00d8341c630a53ef01538e64e7d6970b-800wiHere in Orlando there is a thing called The Kerouac Project, a residency program for writers to come and stay in the once home of Jack Kerouac himself.  I thought it was pretty cool to have that type of program run out of what should be a city landmark, so I looked into the history of the project and it proved to be pretty interesting.  For a long while after Kerouac lived there the house remained unnoticed by the city or biographers; it simply became part of the lore of the northwest neighborhood of College Park that the famous author had lived in the area.  Apparently not many people know the exact details and it became one of those “a friend of a friend told me” type situations.

OTR Penguin 90 coverIn 1996 a reporter by the name of Bob Kealing took an interest in the house.  He called John Sampas, Kerouac’s brother-in-law and estate executor, to get confirmation on the rumors of the house.  Sampas knew the exact address of the house where Kerouac actually lived with his mother in 1957.  According to Kealing this house was where Kerouac lived when his classic On the Road was published and where he typed the original manuscript of his sequel Dharma Bums.

After reading Kealing’s article about his discovery of the house in 1997, local bookshop owners Marty and Jan Cummins approached him with the idea of the Kerouac Project.  They proposed buying the house, fixing it up, and turning it into a haven where up-and-coming writers could stay while working on their own poetry or writings.  Fortunately they found benefactors who helped them put a down payment on the house.  After an article about the project was printed in USA Today they gained the last of the money needed to purchase the property from Jeffery Cole, a long time fan of Kerouac.

The project had a very successful kick-off event attended by Kerouac’s friend and musical collaborator David Amram.  Kealing and Cole both did readings of Kerouac’s work. Since it’s founding, the project has been noticed by many media sources including The LA Times, The Boston Globe, CNN, and National Public Radio.

kerouac

Applications for the Kerouac house are accepted year-round but are only reviewed after the deadline.  The current deadline for the 2013-2014 residencies is fast approaching on March 31, 2013.  The results of which applicants earned their place at the Kerouac house will be announced in May.  The Kerouac Project holds four residencies a year divided into seasons:

Fall: September, October, and November

Winter: December, January, and February

Spring: March, April, and May

Summer: June, July, and August

If you’re an emerging author interested in a residency or just looking to attend an event at this historical house check out the Kerouac Project online.  It’s an interesting piece of Orlando’s literary culture and history.

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PS Kerouac must have been a cat whisperer because I couldn’t get the cat in my picture to pose like the one in his.

The Brilliance of Craig Thompson!

Hello Beautiful Thinkers,

habibi_05aI caught myself longing to buy Craig Thompson’s newest book Habibi again when I was at Barnes & Noble the other day.  I successfully resisted the urge to spend the money I don’t have, but I thought I’d spend today’s entry talking about the first book I read that lead me to my love of this graphic novelist’s work.  I first read Craig Thompson for a class when we were assigned his book Carnet De Voyage.

This is actually an odd way to be introduced to Thompson’s work because it’s about his travels on an international tour for his award-winning book Blankets, which was published in nearly twenty languages inspiring the international tour.  Carnet De Voyage makes reference to his earlier works, which was weird for me since I hadn’t read them and didn’t know exactly what they were.  In this book he also documents some of the research he did for Habibi, an interesting transitory story about where he’s been to where he’s going next as a storyteller.

Blankets_coverThe thing that’s interesting about both Blankets and Carnet De Voyage, other than their actual stories, is the writing style.  Blankets is an autobiographical story and Carnet De Voyage is a nonfiction travel journal, but both genres are rarely written in the graphic novel format that Thompson uses for his other works.  It’s not unheard of to have nonfiction graphic novels but some have credited Thompson with brining more attention to this mix of genre and format than any other author, especially considering the many awards he won for Blankets.

In Carnet De Voyage Thompson touches on the poverty that he encountered during his travels as well as the cultural differences he found when he was brought into people’s homes in other countries.  He also isn’t afraid to touch on the more graphic details, like his stomach’s inability to handle other countries’ food and brings a bit of comedy to an uncomfortable situation by using a much less realistic cartoon character to represent him.  This creature cartoon gives you a slightly more grotesque idea of the animal characters he used in his other story Good-bye Chunky Rice.

The book almost feels like an illustrated diary as Thompson adds self-deprecating humor and self-analysis to his writing.  He travels through Barcelona, the Alps, France, and Morocco, noticing the difference between these cultures and the reception he received in each of them.

Carnet_de_voyageI think that while the art throughout the book is beautiful and shows off the range of different levels of realism he can achieve, it is really only hinting at his abilities as an artist.  From skimming through the pages of Habibi I’d say that if you’re impressed by his work in Carnet De Voyage you’d be blown away by Habibi.  Of his four full-length books, Carnet De Voyage and Good-bye, Chunky Rice are a little easier on your wallet to get you started on your soon-to-be obsession with Thompson’s work.

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Check Out Hulu Exclusive The Booth At The End!

Hello Beautiful Thinkers,

huluAs any of you that enjoy the streaming portion of Netflix or Hulu are probably noticing, these sites are starting to release their own original programs to go along with all the network television and movies that are already available.  At first I wasn’t sure how to feel about these “exclusive” shows, but I finally decided to give a few of them a try.  After all, if you’re going to pay for a service you should explore all it has to offer, right?

booth-at-end.jpgThe show that really caught my attention was Hulu’s The Booth at the End.  Xander Berkeley, who plays the lead, is best known as the stepfather of the girl from Taken and from the US version of Being Human as this season’s Liam McLean.  In this Hulu exclusive series his character is never given a name, known simply as The Man.  He sits in a booth at the end of a diner and offers deals to those who come to see him.  These people always want something and The Man offers them a guarantee that what ever it is they want can happen.

The catch is that they have to preform a task he gives them then return and then tell him about it in detail.  Once they’ve completed this they get whatever it is they desired.  The tasks are usually things that clash with the person’s sense of morals but are never things that they’re incapable of completing.  The Man never forces the person to do something and makes it clear that it is up to them to do or not do the assignment.  It’s a look at how far people might go to fulfill their desires.

the-booth-at-the-end-007I really appreciate the be-careful-what-you-wish and deals-with-the-devil concepts of the show as well as the clarity that these choices lead to consequences.  But really I have to admire the brilliance of how they made the show in regards to setting.  The entire series takes place in the booth.  All of the story-telling work is in the actors’ ability to make the audience believe that they went out and did the things they are telling The Man about.  From a financial stand point it’s a smart move to shoot every scene in the booth rather than having to create several different sets for each character’s story line.  It’s great to feel so engaged in the characters’ stories without actually seeing it firsthand or in flashbacks.  It’s almost like a reimagining of the art of oral story telling.  If you don’t have a Hulu Plus account yourself it might be time to get a little closer with that one friend who has a subscription to check out both seasons of this psychological drama.

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Torrid: Where Big Is Always Beautiful!

Hello Beautiful Thinkers,

torrid_pinklogo1-500x243Now I know that there is a lot of pressure to be so skinny that you can disappear when you stand behind a lamp, especially in the fashion world.  But jokes aside, the body of a fashion model and the body of the average America simply aren’t the same.  Still so many stores think that it’s as simply as taking the design and making it an extra large for those who aren’t model thin.  I’m sure any of you that need a larger size or know someone who does realize that it’s not that easy.  The clothes that look good on a twig-thin person aren’t going to look right on someone with curves no matter what size you make them.  That’s why today I want to give a shout out to Torrid.

torridMy sisters and I always stop in Torrid when we make a mall trip because their clothing is designed with plus sized women in mind.  They are a division of Hot Topic, Inc., and can boast receiving accolades from both FORTUNE Magazine and Forbes Magazine on different “Best Company” lists.  Torrid describes their collection as “on-trend fashion apparel, lingerie and accessories… inspired by and designed to fit the young, voluptuous woman who wears size 12 and up.”  The Torrid size chart carries sizes 12 to 28 and shows customers where to measure to find their size in the store.

torrid-ad-lrgWhile it’s true that I’d never be able to wear any of the clothing, my sister once challenged me by saying, “you’re not going to find anything for you in here.”  She was joking, but in the spirit of Barney from How I Met Your Mother, I said “challenge accepted” and have been haunting their accessories ever since.  They almost always have something that I love in their jewelry selection.

torrid06As you can probably guess from that story I always have fun when I go shopping.  We all know how much customer service can make or break the shopping experience.  I’m glad to say that my sisters have never had a bad experience while shopping at Torrid.  The sales associates are always eager to greet you as you come in, help find the right size, and tell you what items are on sale, but not in that overly pushy all-they-care-about-is-sales way.  They give you a personalized dressing room by writing your name on the door with a dry-erase marker, and once you’ve started to pick items out they’ll keep them in your dressing room until you’re ready to try on.  Some even offer their honest opinion on how the clothes look on you, which can be really helpful if you need another opinion.

torrid-wanabeTorrid also has a great Internet presence, regularly updating their Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, Twitter, and official website.  If you fit into their target market these are all great ways to check them out before for going into a store.  And a savvy shopper can always find a bargain with their sales and clearance items both on the website and in stores.  So what are you waiting for ladies? Check out Torrid for fabulous clothes designed to show off your beautiful curves.

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Editor’s note:  I am one of the above mentioned girls who has a hard time finding tops to fit my curves or boots to fit my calves.  Torrid is a God-send. ~C

DeviantART: A Modern Artist’s Community!

Hello Beautiful Thinkers,

deviantart picI’ve been thinking about how art changes with technology.  Art used to consist of an artist creating something like a painting or sculpture, and that original work was one of a kind; that uniqueness is a part of the piece’s value in the world.  There will never be another Mona Lisa or Starry Night.  But with art that is created on a computer and then printed, can we really hold on to that idea of unique value?  I’m honestly not sure.  The fact that the art is now easier to replicate doesn’t make it any less beautiful, but is the first print any more valuable than the 50th or 100th?  This train of thought was derailed when I thought about DeviantART, a website where artists are constantly sharing their art with each other without worry about what it’s worth.

126465413_73254_headerDeviantART is the largest social network for artist and art enthusiasts online today, and like most social networks, it’s free to join.  The site has twenty categories for its artist to contribute to including digital art, traditional art, literature, cartoons/comics/anime, fan art, etc.  The community uploads over 80,000 works daily to its over 26 million members.  While taking the tour I found out that it has members in over 190 countries that can all interact, commenting on work they like, finding other artist to collaborate with, and even selling prints of their work.

deviantART_Wallpaper_by_bschulzeCo-Founders Scott Jarkoff, Angelo Sotira, and Matthew Stephens started the site on August 7, 2000 and are now on Version 7 of the website.  It seems that every one or two years the site upgrades to a new version on DeviantART’s birthday, adding new features and changing to fit the needs of its ever-growing artist community.  But improving the site from the inside isn’t all that they do to stay up to date.  DeviantART has a Facebook, YouTube, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter where it can promote itself and its members.

As the largest art-based social networks and one of the twenty largest social networks in general, this website is a useful resource for many emerging artists to get their start or for art enthusiasts to find new favorite artist to admire.  I can’t help but feel that the site’s size is a double edge blade.  With so many members there is a lot of competition in the print shop.  And from a fan’s point of view that’s a lot to sift through to find a piece of artwork you like.  I’m not saying that it isn’t worth it for all you hopeful artist, but I definitely wouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket here.  But whether you’re an artist or art fan the site is a go to for seeing what’s out there and getting inspiration.  Plus if you’ve got a couple hours to kill there are worse ways to spend that time than sampling the work of several different artists.  Whether you make an account to host your own artwork or just hop on to peruse, DeviantART definitely worth checking out.

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Check Out The New Single From Rilo Kiley!

Hello Beautiful Thinkers,

1363606100_500coverI was very excited to see Rilo Kiley has recently brought out a new single in anticipation of their new album, Rkives, available for pre-order on iTunes, expected to release on April 2nd this year.  The single “Let Me Back In” feels like a request from the band to rejoin the new music scene after going almost five years since their last album released in 2008.  And I’m happy to answer this request with a big fat “YES!” followed by a “did you even have to ask?” and wrapped up with a little bit of “where have you been this whole time??”

RiloKileyIt seems like a great time for Rilo Kiley to bring out a new album with the popularity of mellow singer/songwriters and the sudden popularity of indie folk music on secular radio.  I’m hoping that the band’s new work will make a big splash with what’s currently popular in the music world. The new single somehow seems both fresh for a new generation of fans and still reminiscent of their earlier work from 2001-2008.  The song’s video is made to look like a lot of home movie-type footage spliced together, which adds to the nostalgia felt by anyone who’s been following them since Rilo Kiley first started.

tumblr_m67oyudiUC1qzodmxI remember listening to the early to mid 2000s albums and falling in love with the lyrics of songs like “Silver Lining” and “Portions for Foxes.” Their unique alternative sound made them one of my favorite bands back in 2007.  Still to this day they hold a spot in my top five favorite lyrics with “The talking leads to touching and the touching leads to sex and then there is no mystery left.”  There is just something about that lyric that catches in my mind for days after listening to the song.  I’m looking forward to new lyrics on Rkives that draw me in the same way.  Though I didn’t quite find a stand-out lyric in “Let Me Back In,” as a whole the song is still beautifully written.  I think it’s safe to say that Rilo Kiley hasn’t lost their touch.

4238329387_5ef8c540e7

The band has released a total of 4 full albums, 2 EPs, and 5 singles on iTunes since they got together in 1998.  Both More Adventures and Under The Blacklight made it onto The Billboard 200 the year they came out.  Music from these albums has been featured in popular television shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Girls as well as in video games like Rock Band.  The lead vocalist Jenny Lewis, who has released a few solo albums, is no stranger to the television world; she can boast acting in a total of 41 titles and has 14 soundtrack credits on IMDB.  Hopefully that list of soundtrack appearances will only increase with Rkives.  I don’t know about all of you, but I can’t wait for April.

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Card Against Humanity is Wonderfully Twisted!

Hello Beautiful Thinkers,

cards-against-humanityI don’t know about all of you, but I was raised on card games as a kid and still enjoy them to this day.  You don’t always have to go out to have a good time; some nights it’s just as good to get a few friends together and break out a deck of cards.  In the past few years I’ve found some specialty card games that really bring the party to the next level from your average 52-card deck.  If you’re looking for a fun night at home there are a lot of great games out there, but if you have a sense of humor as twisted as mine, then I think it’s time you checked out Cards Against Humanity.

I’m of the opinion that the easiest way to learn a game is while playing it.  Reading the rules first can take so long.  But with Cards Against Humanity there’re really only two rules: match your best white card(s) with the black card in play and don’t take it too seriously.  If you’re thinking “that sounds a lot like Apples to Apples,” you’re absolutely right.  The basic game play is very similar between the two except in CAH you can be asked to match up to three white cards to a single black card.  But where Apples to Apples is a family friendly game that can be filled with innuendo by our sick minds, Cards Against Humanity skips right over innuendo to the punch lines we’re all thinking but some of us are too polite to say out loud.

0d50c9b5094f94c145726fc917c66385_largeI first discovered this CAH through a game night hosted by friend of mine.  It was instant love, but when I asked where to get it I found out there are only two ways to get a deck, well three if you’re willing to steal from your friend that beat you to the checkout.  But grand theft card games aside, the game is available for $25 on Amazon or for free download from the official website.  The game was so popular when it first launched that it sold out faster than they could print it so the creators were awesome enough to make a PDF of the game that you can print yourself.  They even give recommended instructions in the PDF of what paper to print on for the best results.

If you’re like me and you want to support the game’s creators by paying the $25 dollars or you’re just too lazy for a DIY project right now, the timing couldn’t be more perfect.  CAH has just been restocked on Amazon, and as an added bonus for those who have known the game for a while and can’t get enough, they partnered the restocking with the launch of their third Cards Against Humanity Expansion Pack.  Each expansion pack is also available on Amazon for $10. There is no PDF available for the expansion packs but you can’t expect them to give it all way for free, can you?

745112If you end up falling in love with the game and Expansion Packs 1, 2, and 3 aren’t enough for you, each pack comes with a few extra blank cards.  This is perfect for customizing the game to your friends’ inside jokes.  Plus if you’re the type of person that likes to share, there is a Cards Against Humanity Tumblr that is covered with other people’s funniest card combinations and thoughts about the game.  Start sharing and find others that share your passion for this twisted game.  Whether you buy the cards while they’re in stock (which won’t be long with their track record) or you make your own deck with their free printable PDF, I hope that you’ll love this game like I do.

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The Telephone: Best Gossip Tool of the 19th Century!

Hello Beautiful Thinkers,

With the return of NBC’s series Revolution just around the corner I started thinking, “what would I do without technology?”  This led to the question of which item I’d miss the most: my cell phone.  What did we do before cell phones?  Actually, what did we do before phones in general?  And that thought process is how my mind came up with the topic for today, the invention of the telephone!

97b/03/vict/0371/50Alexander Graham Bell is a name that many of you already know as inventor of the telephone.  It turns out that around the same time in the 1870s a second inventor, Elisha Gray, was also working on his own version of the telephone.  It’s a fairly popular story that the two of them rushed to the patent office within hours of each other, but Bell made it first and won the claim of inventor of the telephone.

As it turns out though, Bell didn’t originally plan on inventing this machine.  His original intent was to create a means to improve the telegraph, the established form of long distance communication at the time.  The telegraph was only able to send one message at a time, so with the help of Thomas Watson and the funding of Gardiner Greene Hubbard, Bell believed that he could send multiple messages across the same wire if they were notes of different pitch.

BellTelephone1876Bell and Watson discovered that they could send sounds through the wire in 1875 when Bell heard the sound of a clock spring “twang” while working on his “harmonic telegraph.”  Within a year’s time, on March 10 1876, Bell spoke the first words to be sent via telephone “Mr. Watson – come here – I want to see you.”  Within the next twenty years telephones were everywhere.  The original Bell Telephone Company started in 1877 is the ancestor of what we now know as AT&T.  So all you AT&T users can claim bragging rights that your cell phone’s great, great, great grandphone was the first phone ever.  Alright so it’s a little more complicated than that, but if I followed the rabbit hole of company growth and take-overs all the way down to Bell’s original company, I’d probably be begging for a Revolution-style blackout to come so I wouldn’t have to keep typing for days about each step.

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Soon I Will Be Invincible too!

Hello Beautiful Thinkers,

20090708-comicbookmoviesWith all the comic books of our childhood being turned into movies, and those movies getting sequels left and right, I was intrigued when I saw Austin Grossman’s Soon I Will Be Invincible at a book store.  It’s a super hero book that lets you walk in both the hero and the villain’s shoes.  Grossman doesn’t try to shy away from the clichés of the comic book world in his novel, but instead embraces them with his own take on the epic struggle between good and evil.  Soon I Will Be Invincible is an easy and entertaining read.

invincibleThe chapters are split between the evil genius Doctor Impossible and Fatale, a half woman, half machine warrior hero.  The book starts in the villain’s point of view.  Doctor Impossible, your classic career villain, is in prison for his last losing attempt at world domination.  As he talks about his routine in jail you discover some of his crimes including hypnotizing the president, taking over Chemical Bank, and fighting various heroes and groups that opposed him.  Of course, as you might have guessed, he will escape the prison before long and sets another plan in motion to conqueror the world.

The hero’s side of the story is a little different.  Instead of a well-seasoned character who’s been fighting crime as long as Doctor Impossible has been committing it, Fatale is a rookie hero.  She’s just become a member of the world-famous super team, the Champions.  Readers get an insight to Fatale, following her path towards feeling accepted in the group and feeling her urge to earn her place among heroes that have been saving the world for years.  We also follow her on her way to finding out who made her the way she is after she was almost killed by a hit and run van.

austin-grossmanxWithin the first few pages of the book there are a lot of super people in this reality.  Grossman has thoughtfully picked out the heroes and villains that mattered and cataloged them in the back of the book.  This appendix of characters is cleverly labeled “Selections from the International MetaHuman Database, Third Edition.”   Each hero’s name is accompanied by a quick descriptor (Ex. CoreFire – “World’s Mightiest Hero”) as well as a Bio, list of powers, source of powers, and any additional notes that are relevant to the character.  The same goes for the villains in the “database.”  The heroes are split into groups by the name of the organization they belong to, i.e.: The Champions, The Super Squadron, and The Chaos Pact.  Also in the appendix is “A Selective Time Line of Superhuman History.”  The best part about these features of the book is that they are spoiler free so you can check them out at any point in the story without worry that you’ll learn something the story hasn’t yet revealed.  If you’re a fan of superhero worlds, Soon I Will Be Invincible is definitely worth checking out.

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