Monday, June 22, 2020

Have You Made Your Mid 2020 Resolutions Yet?

As you may recall, I'm pretty big on New Years' Resolutions. It's serious business for me. I break out the legal pad, the calendar, the pens, the highlighters and clear the whiteboards. It's a multi-week process that starts well before the New Year.

Well...2020 is a little different. This year, I had to stop and reconsider everything. I couldn't rely on the people around me behaving the same, and *I* certainly wasn't going to behave the same. While my overall goal is still in place, the landscape has changed drastically. So now is the time to adapt. It's not feasible for me to just struggle through the year as if everything was going to be the same.

So I'm pulling out the half-used legal pad, the 6 month calendar, the dirty highlighter, and using the remaining space on the whiteboard. It's time to get to working out the next steps. Because I'll be damned if I don't make the most of the situation.

It's like the wise Mike Tyson said about planning...

- Mr Benja -

Should Artists Cash In On The Flavor Of The Month?

I used to have a problem with people "cashing in" on the current wave of social discourse or media hype, and I still do. BUT since I've started engaging with more people more often (thank extroverts), I've come to a much better understanding of the art that takes part in genuine discussions with the public.
In fact, the BEST artists do it without cashing in. They're able to channel the vibe of what everyone is thinking/feeling and add relevancy. This is why pop art spoke to me many years ago before
Get in that conversation and be genuine. It can be dangerous/scary, but it's fully in line with being an artist. Just beware of being an artist that's only there to cash in. That's for bums.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

8BitCubist Face Masks Now Available

Times are crazy, so everyone's got some face masks now, right? Me too. I worked with local SoCal artist Mr David Ruano (no relation) to create a set of facemasks in a couple styles. More information on the website. Let me know what you think.

- Mr Benja -

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

This Is A New Normal: Allow The Good Energy To Flow

The New Normal

Had a good talk earlier with John Barney, an artist that got me really thinking about the business side of things since I jumped on the Long Beach scene. We spoke quite a bit about art in these crazy times and what the future holds. Good information was exchanged.

I had a realization though...
There may be a miscommunication in what I was putting out there.

While I believe that this is a great time to do new things with numerous possibilities for good returns, there are a lot of people that seem to have thought that I was standing around acting like everything is going to be okay.

So I think I should clarify...

The world is WILDLY different now.
Things are ROUGH.

I get that.

I do not believe that things are peachy, that things will just return to normal, that things will magically work out, or that people will just give artists/developers money because we're nice people. The business of life just doesn't give a damn.

That being said...I had to ask myself:
What do I want?
Who am I going to be?

Well, to me, there are two, non-mutually exclusive options: 
  1. Allow good energy flow in familiar directions 
  2. Allow good energy flow in new directions
(Implicit in the flow mandate is that one will need to let go of resistance that's holding back the flow.)

Because you can always make choices to adjust yourself into a better direction. 

Recently, I realized that Instagram was causing me low levels of anxiety. I had to change how I utilized the platform. I can't browse it the same way I used to and have removed a lot of the content that I posted before. There are other strategies that I have employed for it and other outlets (like this newsletter). These strategies are geared towards a better tomorrow.

The environment has undeniably changed on a global scale. Continued activity will likely require tapping into unfamiliar energies (aka thinking outside of the box). There are some cases where you might luck out -- maybe you happen to own a hand sanitizer business. But more likely, you won't be able to coast on this new energy paradigm. That means you will have to realign yourself, maybe in radical ways.

What adjustments make sense in your slice of the universe? That's something you will have to answer for yourself. Will you play the violin while the Titanic is sinking? Maybe that's not the best strategy for you. But maybe that does work for you for some reason. (Note: I just learned from Wikipedia that "712 people survived the sinking of the Titanic out of 2,207".)

In any situation, it is on you to adjust.
Everything is not going to magically be okay.
That's not realistic. 

Things can work out well for any of us. 
I absolutely believe this.

In times of change, there are new opportunities that may not have made sense before. You have to adapt yourself to the situation. For example, who would have thought that sewing, cooking, or being able to exist indoors would be as beneficial as it is right now?

As a creator, it is my job to continue to create. Accepting that statement yields more complex questions, though: What to create? What to enact? Where to go? Who to call? What to let go of? Things are uncertain, so there aren't clear answers. Our visible options may not seem ideal, but they are options, nonetheless. Options allow us to keep energy flowing. 

Somewhere in-between the visible extremes that probably aren't a good fit, there are options that will work for you. Right now, it's your job to access those options. 

This goes for me as well. I'm currently finding my way through things and have decided to start a podcast that has no clear-cut path to prosperity. I have a strategy, but I'm still finding my way though it all. Will this time around help me to actually move the needle in my direction? I think it could, so I'm doing it. 

Since I don't own a hand sanitizer company, I'm not able to kick back and relax. But that's okay. Things are what they are and life transpires. I plan to . I don't expect you to either. So keep doing positive work, and we can synergize with each other's creativity.

Let me know how you are feeling.
We can do this.

- Mr Benja -

Friday, May 8, 2020

Pandemic Dramas: Strangely Therapeutic?

pandemic dramas have me like...

I'm not a doctor.
I don't even play one on TV.

But I have heard that prolonged exposure to news media and and all this discussion of pandemics is bad for you. I won't get into the psychology of it, but news in a time like this has a way of making people crazy.

I have known that people watch dramas that showcase the issue they're facing, but I have usually avoided such content (at least consciously). Then in what I considered a perverse move, I started looking for pandemic dramas online: Contagion, Armageddon, Pandemic, 48 Days Later, etc. 

So I posted about this, and many of my friends showed their approval and understanding. Tony Barnes chimed in: "It's cathartic." 
a: purification or purgation of the emotions (such as pity and fear) primarily through art
b: a purification or purgation that brings about spiritual renewal or release from tension
This article in GQ had a bit to say about it:
Well, this is a new one for me, as I usually get by well enough without it. So I'm not promoting the idea of looking for pain, but  there may be a way for this kind of media to do you some good. But, if they leave you feeling like shit, find something else to do.

What pandemic dramas would you recommend?

- Mr Benja -

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Relieve Quarantine Anxiety with... Will Smith?

Last week, I was trying to get some work done and was getting a little anxious about life. Suddenly, a voice spoke to me softly and said, "Just chill, maaaaan." I leaned back at my computer and decided to take the advice of the strange voice. I browsed YouTube in search of anything to set my mind at ease. (It's not just procrastination, it's therapy!) In a few minutes, I ran across this playlist of lo-fi beats to chill to from Will Smith. It's not a new concept, but I wasn't thinking about it at the time. I loaded it up and pressed Play.

It should help you relax and remove some anxiety from all the news and the quarantine. It did for me.

BUT, if you want a 24 hour mix, you're going to have to check for the original badass lofi hip hop radio that Smith was paying homage to. Listen to this one if you need to be zoned out for hours at a time.

Link: Lo-Fi Hip Hop Radio

Finally, another favorite chill playlist was sent to me by Stephen Russo.
Link: Coffee Shop Radio

Hope you enjoy these. You can also find these and ones like them on Spotify, iTunes, and other places.

- Mr Benja -

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

What Kind of Parents Created Me?

So...I really got into creating online because of the ability to share the interesting people and experiences that I was coming across. I have some images that I don't usually show. They're always on my mind and will accompany my other posts. We'll see what happens.

This is my father Earl alongside one of my favorite image of his, a block printed painting known as "The Line". I found a photograph of the image and recreated it on the computer and got a large print made for his birthday. You can't tell here, but he's really happy about it. :).

I'm actually reminded of "The Line" as I see places like Wal-Mart and Ralph's with huge queues of people stretching around the block for some canned goods because yeah, everything is crazy right now.

The other half of my major influence is my mother, Shirley. All my life I knew her as an opera singer and professor of music at Florida A&M University. More than that, I knew her as an educator and a student. She was always on the hunt for knowledge and was willing to share it to everyone in her environment. Also, that's not a college student in the pictures, btw. She also taught young ones in few moments of "spare" time. Interestingly enough, she was strict, but never pushed the arts on me as the end all and be all of life. In fact, when I expressed interests in computers and video games, she was all for it even though it really wasn't her ballpark.

Dr Shirley showed me how to fight the fight to get to where you want to be. How to get around the obstacles. And how to get your music heard.

Now you know.

- Mr Benja -

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Branding for Artists

** UPDATE: This is no longer a quick note. It became a full on blog post. Enjoy. :) **

A quick note on "brand".
Brand is what helps people understand and connect with you.
In these Internet streets, that's essential.

I define brand in two ways:

Definition #1:  "Perceived Value" - When people think about your personal brand, your art brand, your friend brand, your employee brand, etc. they have a perceived value rating for you. The higher that perceived value, the greater your ability to move minds...or...influence.

Definition #2: "The story that's going on in others' heads when you're not around." -  When people think about you what do they think about? Think about Disney, Netflix, the NFL, your cousin, Mr Benja, Andy Warhol, Dr Phil, The Avengers, In-N-Out, etc.

And...other definitions: You can also check Merriam-Webster or some other smart people for their definitions. It's worth noting that the name comes from livestock branding, which is how people literally marked the ownership of their products. <>

As artists, we're in a weird position to craft a combined personal and professional brand. I need to figure this type of branding out for myself. 

So what do I know about branding? Well, for much of my life, I've worked to design brand for games, products, movements, technologies, etc. Rockstar Games Table Tennis is an example of a team project where I was the lead game designer. (Much of the visual styling was all from corporate though. They do great work.) The entire campaign relied heavily on multiple levels of branding.  <>

Now that I'm out of the corporate scene, I've realized that I NEED a personal brand to communicate my ideas effectively. Unfortunately, personal branding doesn't come naturally to me. My unregulated thoughts are far too weird to simply "say what's on my mind". (Damn that computer science background.) Even if you've never thought about it, you may be a personal branding natural, or maybe not.

But shouldn't success be all about the product? CAN be, but you're leaving a lot of opportunity untapped as well as wading in dangerous territory, especially for an artist. First of all, a small amount of brand consideration can make your product/service/idea go a lot farther. Secondly, in this era we're in, I guarantee that I can acquire a better image than you would create -- and likely for cheaper. Your brand is what will set your work apart from being a mere commodity.

Over the past couple years I've FINALLY starting working on my personal brand because I'm seeing how much it can get me. I'd rather just be a hermit and hoard my creations outside of the public eye. The whole personal branding thing really doesn't come naturally to me, I'm actually envious of people that just live life as a natural brand. I mean...I'll never be fake, but following the unqualified "Be Yourself" mantra has gotten me into a lot of trouble. In 2020, I'm working on avoiding those troubles.

A simple example is my regular Facebook posts. (See attached image.) Most of my posts all follow a basic format, background, and style. It gets people to understand my message faster. They get FAR more traction than my other post types. But I actually took the time to work out how I should communicate consistently on my main feed. It worked, and I had time to figure it out in a safe place. Now, they're flow pretty easily, and I can create variations.

I'm still a work in progress and would never call myself an "expert", but I can't stress the importance of the brand enough in this attention age.

Anyway, this was just an observation and a sharing of what I'm thinking about. I'm going to revisit my Instagram right now and will keep stumbling along horribly until I get it right.

I'd like to hear your thoughts on brand for artists.

- Mr Benja -

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

8BitCubist Podcast Ep 001

I gave the first podcast a 000 index because it's kind of like the origin story. With this one, I'm just getting into the swing of things with my first real podcast. This whole coronavirus thing is what got me to set up the recording software and get serious.

Speaking of serious, be sure that you're subscribed on YouTube.

- Mr Benja -

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The Return of The 8Bit Cubist Podcast

I was a podcast OG. Mostly thanks to Raph and Marcellus back in the late 00s. I didn't worry too much about recording my shit talking though. But between, myself, Raph, Jeff, Ryan, Theo, Marcellus, Josh, and a few others, there was always good shit-talking to be done. We found that out after bonding over video games, SoCal, and the San Diego Comic Con.

Come to think of it, we were all from vastly different places. That's probably why it was so unique.

Here's basically how the version were:
Version 1 - The Paiiow Podcast: Randomly wild. Missed it? That's too bad (many to many)
Version 2 - The 8Bit Cubist Podcast: Group Sessions (one to many)
Version 3 - The 8Bit Cubist Podcast: Interview Sessions (one to one)
Version 4 - The 8Bit Cubist Podcast: Mr Benja goes full art (singleton)

The current version of The 8Bit Cubist podcast is a direct extension my art and a complement to it as well. That is, it's an individual exploration of life viewed through the lens of a game.

Also, I'd definitely appreciate it if you could subscribe on YouTube so I can prove to the algorithm that I'm worth it. You know how that goes.

- Mr Benja -

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