Friday, September 30, 2011

This Razor's Edge


(video contains language)

"Art is Dead" is my favorite Bo Burnham song by far, and it always has been since the first time I heard it. It's a song that Bo refers to as being both "a confession and an apology," which is "honest, not sarcastic" (from the description on YouTube.) It's definitely a humbling slap in the face for anyone who considers himself or herself an "artist." It forces us to look deep down and question our motives for being an artist. Are we trying to send a message? Are we just trying to make people laugh and cry and whatever else to make their day better, more interesting, or more meaningful? Or is it as simple as just saying "I want attention" and trying to make ourselves look more important or deep? Most artists want success. Comics, actors, visual artists, graphic artists, special effects artists... But with success comes art for the sake of a check or for the sake of attention and not for the sake of art itself or a message. Is it right? Is it a legitimate way to make a living? Are we just over-inflating ourselves and our ego? When we reach success, it's important to remember why we love what we do, to remember that we are completely undeserving of what we get in return for our talents in the face of the fact that there are so many people out there suffering or not using their talents.

One example could be this blog.

It started out as a project my senior year of high school for a World Literature class. We were to use our blogs as a way to discover how to present yourself on the internet and how to find your voice as a writer. Those of us who really had something to say or who were able to dive in and find a way to market it to others excelled in the project and outside of it. Lindsey Washall's blog Deliciously Awkward managed to get into a textbook for crying out loud. My blog started getting views from most of my friends and a lot of people from around my school. People of all grades. Whether or not you'd consider blogging to be an "art," the point is that I created something that is fueled by my own creativity so that I can write more and entertain others and send a message. The message varies with each post, but there's always something there. Some posts have been fueled only by the message ("Brainwashing," "Don't Forget to Be Awesome," "Angry Blog," for example,) and the only reason I care about their views is because I wanted people to learn something or get something out of them. They're important. When I wrote the blog about the Fact Sphere, I was just trying to create a resource for myself and other people out there who enjoyed the quotes and wanted them written down.

That's when things exploded. I rake in well over a thousand views a month now, and my blog is connected to so many other sites out there on the internet. Now when I write a blog, I find myself wishing all my more important posts could be as successful, and sometimes it's tempting to leech off the big news like Portal 2 or general Nerdfighting or Team Fortress 2 being free to play. It's hard not to write for views once you realize people are here now. I want more views. Everyone does, and it's hard to fight. I like the attention. It's a deep and dirty truth. It's just a trait that the vast majority of us artists have. Our thoughts and daydreams are often about ourselves. Or at least mine are. I have my friends or family in my thoughts and my daydreams, but they are always either about really interesting or odd things suddenly happening in my normal life or about all the "bigger questions" people talk about so much.  It's hard to admit, but I have trouble taking a backseat (or rather being less than equal) to other people in my own mind. I have no problem with it in real life, but inside I don't like to be just ignored. Sure I may want attention to spread a message or contribute to something or to do other good with it, but it's still wanting attention.

It feels childish to be like this sometimes. It makes me feel like I need to be dependent on other people to survive. Luckily, I have very loving family, girlfriend, and friends. If I really need something, someone will always be there for me. But sometimes I feel like I can't mature because of who I am. It's kind of a stupid irrational thought sometimes, but it's an important question to ask. And hopefully asking that question is what keeps me maturing. Maybe everyone else sees it and sometimes I can't.

Einstein apparently once said that the work of artists is more important than his own. We're taught that Greek drama was incredibly important to their culture. People have always looked to artists to tell them stories, to entertain them, and to make them feel something. It can't be denied that artists are important to society as a whole. It doesn't feel like we should be allowed to be, though. Especially if the ultimate goal for us isn't to make something beautiful, but to get hits on a website or make money. Most people outside of art regard it as being important, but often artists who have asked themselves the questions Bo has conclude that they are undeserving or unimportant. Andy Warhol apparently said "An artist is somebody who produces things that people don't need to have." It's a big question to ask, and it's dizzying.

For once, an insightful YouTube comment.

If we sell out, we lose the art, but if we accept success knowing we don't deserve it and keep producing for a reason, we are honest artists. That is what I think Bo means, and that's what helps me to sleep at night, too. I say with all the sincerity I have that I thank you for reading or continuing to read, and thanks for bearing with me through this unorganized stream of consciousness. I hope you got something out of it.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

JoCo's Artificial Heart Beats Strong

Anyone who knows me knows that my favorite songwriter is the talented geek rocker Jonathan Coulton. Famous for both his contributions to the Portal franchise with "Still Alive" and "Want You Gone," PopSci and his Thing A Week project in which he wrote, recorded, and released a song every single week for 52 weeks, he earned himself a quick cult following. I saw Jonathan Coulton for the first and only time in December of 2009 with a group of friends at World Cafe Live in Philly. Since then there have been prior commitments and conflicts, and I can't wait to get another group together the next time he comes around to our area.

Jonathan Coulton's new album, Artificial Heart, was produced by John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants, and it shows. From the very first track, you can taste the influence. He's been pushed out of what he's used to and he's testing new instruments and generally new territory. Coulton releases his work through the Creative Commons License, so no worries about the songs being posted here. He makes a lot more now with this business strategy than he ever did as a software engineer. It's the first album he's released since 2006's Thing A Week, and it's definitely a departure from what we're used to hearing at first. It was off-putting the first time I listened to it, but after paying attention, it's one of my favorite albums by far. It's still classic JoCo, don't worry. Just a little bit different and more relevant to real life than the robots and monkeys we're used to.

So far a few my favorite songs are "Down Today," a song about new love and hot air balloon rides, "Now I Am an Arsonist," a mystifying song more open to interpretation than most JoCo songs, featuring Suzanne Vega, and the albums title song "Artificial Heart," which seems to be about the way we destroy ourselves when we kill or bury our own emotions. There's some really thought-provoking stuff in this.

Now that all the generic stuff is out of the way, on to more of my personal opinion. Jonathan Coulton has always been in my eyes an artist of many talents. This album is definitely proof of that. Thing A Week had all the geeky rocking songs about cyborgs and mountain-dwelling supervillains than I could ever ask for! I'm looking forward to any more quirky or just really geeky songs in the future, it would be wrong to feel like that needs to be every single album. This one keeps the themes of space and astronauts and robotic augmentations and news anchors going crazy, but with more songs sprinkled in that are a little more serious and as well composed, even if done so a little differently. This is really polished and I love it. Every time I listen to these songs, the more I like them. The entire list here is just awesome. All the reviews are positive, so what are you waiting for?

Jonathan Coulton with his usual awesome opening band, Paul and Storm. (World Cafe Live concert.)

Listen to Artificial Heart FREE via YouTube!

Spring for an extra $5 like I did, and you'll get a signed copy in the mail! I can't wait for mine! 
Spring for more, and you will get so much more than that. I really wish I could have gone for the biggest package.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Now On Tumblr

Young Melon World is now on tumblr! I never really saw much point in it before, but now I see it as a good source of inspiration for things to write about, pictures or GIFs for blogs, and as a good place to promote the blog. I've had a complaint or two about how long my blog posts have been, and while I kind of agree, I feel like the length keeps a certain quality to it. I'll try to shorten up the posts a bit in the future, but for really short posts, you can now go to!

It'll also carry some content or maybe drawings that I've done that I'd like to post but don't really fit with any of my blog posts. Or maybe there's some content that didn't make it into a post, like my drawing of the 10th Doctor, which I did the day after my most recent post. So go check it out if you'd like!

Remember, knowing that people are viewing keeps me motivated. So if you care to, please follow me on one or both of the sites and spread it around a little. Thank you! Much appreciated.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Desktop Doodle Doctor

This is the first of probably a couple of blogs about Doctor Who as I begin my journey as a new fan.

Kelsea's been getting me into Doctor Who recently, watching the episodes with the 11th Doctor in order. I've been as far as finishing "The Big Bang." I've also been keeping up with BBCA's schedule so I can catch repeats from the 10th Doctor. It's funny, clever, interesting, not too serious, and I'm loving it so far. I'm liking it for all the same reasons I like Stargate SG-1! I like shows that are based in our reality to some extent that throw in a Sci-Fi element (The Doctor, a Stargate, the abilities in Heroes,) and then take the viewer on self-contained little adventures, usually with an overarching plot or threat. It doesn't take itself too seriously, and I really like the whole concept.

One still shot from my new desktop theme

Today, a few days after having seen the 10th Doctor episode "Blink," also thanks to Kelsea and the magic of Netflix, I had the idea to find the complete clip of the "easter egg" from the DVDs in the episode and make a Window's 7 Theme out of them. I took 5 screenshots from the video and strung them all together into a desktop slideshow, shuffling through every 10 seconds. When I was done, I took the idea to its logical end: a Weeping Angel prank.

1. Take 5 screenshots from this video
2. Save them to your friend's computer
3. Go to your Windows 7 Start Menu, then Control Panel
4. Change Desktop Background
5. Select the screens, set to "Change every 1 day"
6. Wait for your friend to either freak out over time or get a kick out of it.