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Podcast Recommendations

Thursday, October 13, 2016
Podcast Recommendations

Due to some ongoing financial issues earlier in the year I had to take on a lot of extra freelance assignments which culminated in probably the most work intensive summer I’ve ever experienced. Honestly there were stretches of several days were I didn’t talk to a single human being, let alone leave the apartment. Fortunately all the hard work paid off and I’m in a much better situation now (both in terms of my work hours and my finances). Looking back on that period in my life I have to say that the one thing that kept me sane and motivated to get up in the morning was being able to catch up on the backlog of all my favorite podcasts.

Since “podcast recommendations” has been a topic of conversation amongst my friends lately and it’s something I feel I can weigh in on I thought it’d be fun (and hopefully helpful) to share some of the shows I listen to regularly. Keep in mind that I have a job and a hobby that are very solitary so I personally have a preference for shows that make me feel like I’m connected to other people and the outside world. It seems like there’s a podcast about everything these days so even if nothing on my list strikes your fancy I’m sure there’s a podcast out there that caters to your values and interests. It’s just a matter of doing a little research. So, without further adieu, here’s my list (in no particular order):

This American Life- A lot people’s first podcast, myself included. There’s a reason why it’s so popular. I used to listen to a lot of talk radio and watch film documentaries. At a certain point I began to wonder if there was a program that explored some of the topics I enjoyed watching in documentaries and presented them in an audio format that I could listen to at work. A quick google search later and I discovered TAL. The show archives go all the way back to 1995 so (in addition to being an entertaining show on its own) it’s also a fascinating time capsule of the popular trends and topics of interest over the past couple decades (I got a kick out of the commentary on this “scary new technology” called the internet in one of the earlier shows).

Serial- Spinoff of TAL, I’m sure most people already know about this one. It sticks to one longer story which is broken up over multiple episodes. I thought the first season was more compelling, despite being smaller scale. The second season, about the ramifications of a US soldier abandoning his post in Afghanistan, has its moments and is definitely worth a listen if you’re intrigued by the premise.

Everything is Stories- Stories about people on the fringes of society (outcasts, rebels, hippies and hermits). The aural equivalent of a long, strange and occasionally intense journey through the desert.

Reply All- A podcast about the internet. The cohost’s sidebars explaining the latest trends on the web can be fun and educational but the main draw are the stories that start with some connection to the internet and unfold in weird and wonderful directions. The Cathedral (episode 50) which explores the relationship between the artist and his art (a subject that’s always fascinated me) is my favorite episode and a great place to start.

Snap Judgement- The host’s sometimes meandering stories that top off the show aside, Snap consistently features compelling personal stories covering a variety of subjects. It also has the best production values of any podcast I’ve listened to (in terms of the score/soundtrack).

Criminal- A podcast about criminals, think of it as bite-sized episodes of Serial. Given the shows dark subject matter it’s surprising how much the tone varies from episode to episode. One week it covers a heinous act, the next it investigates the more “innocent” crime of stealing petrified wood from a national park in Arizona. The latter episode (#23) and the episode involving a man who scuba dives into the La Brea tar pits to recover a discarded weapon (#33) are two highlights.

Smodcast- Humor is relative. That being said, this podcast consistently makes me laugh. Admittedly it’s mostly juvenile and crash stuff so I have a hard time explaining to people why I find it so funny. Maybe it’s because I can relate to writer/director Kevin Smith’s self-deprecating sense of humor, his childhood obsession with comic books and his self-deprecating sense of humor about being a “comic book nerd.” A similar, discontinued podcast I recommend is Peepholes: A Highlands History where Kevin Smith talks with childhood friends and paints a surprisingly vivid portrait of life growing up in a small New Jersey coastal town.

Love + Radio- A more experimental podcast in terms of the soundscape and the story structure. Oftentimes it makes you feel like you’ve been dropped into the middle of a story where you’re scrambling to piece together who (and what) the episode is about. Admittedly there are a couple of them that flat out didn’t work for me (most likely because they were too cerebral to be listening to while working). However the majority of the episodes are very compelling stuff that reward your attention. The Living Room, in particular, is one of the most profoundly moving podcasts in recent memory.

Death, Sex and Money- “A show about the things we think about a lot and need to talk about more.” Hearing a variety of guests (from celebrities to cliff divers to funeral directors) having candid discussions about typically taboo media subjects (which are nicely summarized in the podcast name) make for one of the more thought-provoking interview-style podcasts I’ve listened to.

Make it then Tell Everybody- A podcast about how artists approach their work, how they rationalize what they do and how they see themselves fitting into the wider world. Admittedly it’s a very niche podcast and I imagine if you’re not an artist you might find the topics dreadfully dull. As a long time comic artist I think the show is a great resource for technical tips, insights, and general musings about the hobby/profession.

Invisibilia- A podcast about the invisible forces that shape human behavior. An intriguing premise that leads to some fascinating character studies including a woman who’s incapable of sensing fear and a blind man who uses a bat-like sonar technique to “see.” Heady stuff that will change the way you perceive yourself and the world around you. I definitely recommend starting with the first season (as I felt it had more interesting stories).

Mystery Show- A six-episode podcast hosted by This American Life contributor Starlee Kine where she solves various minor mysteries. It’s funny how on paper the mysteries don’t sound that compelling but I was amazed at how wrapped up I got in discovering the origin of a custom belt buckle (or the actual height of Jake Gyllenhaal). Hopefully the show comes back soon, I could definitely use some more mystery in my life.

Strange/Statistical Bumper Stickers

Friday, May 6, 2016
Statistical Fact 5 bumper sticker collection

Just finished some new bumper sticker designs based on two of my most recent comic series (see above). If you’re interested you can order the Very Strange Man stickers at the new store here. The Statistical Fact stickers (as well as a bunch of other one-of-a-kind swag) can be found at the Statistical Swag store here. Happy perusing!

Oasis of Games

Monday, April 18, 2016

Oasis of Games Amazon store logo

2015 ended up being the year I focused primarily on my creative aspirations, which turned out to be very fulfilling as I was able to achieve some of my long-term goals. The downside was that I was so focused on my personal projects that I neglected my paying projects and my savings pretty much bottomed out by the end of the year.

Perhaps as a direct result of this 2016 seems to be the year that I focus on getting my finances back on track. Back in 2010 when my main work assignments (lettering manga) were becoming less frequent I reacted to the drop in income by being more conservative with my spending and, eventually, moving to more affordable living conditions. Now that I find myself in a similar situation (cost of living is going up, income is plateauing/going down) I’m trying a different approach: addressing the situation with a “earn a dollar” mindset rather than “save a penny” mindset. From this new perspective I saw that continuing to do the lettering work and maintaining a freelance lifestyle (which I’ve grown accustomed to) would require some sort of additional income source to help make ends meet.

Thus, for the past month or so I’ve been working full time on my first (and possibly not last) attempt at running a side business: reselling new and used games (and other knickknacks) through my own online Amazon store Oasis of Games. It takes something I already like to do in my free time (browse thrift stores for games) and utilizes my “skills” in game knowledge (from collecting and playing hundreds of board games) and thriftiness (from my years as a starving artist). While it’s probably not something I’d enjoy doing full-time, as a part-time job with flexible hours that I can turn to for extra income during work gaps it appears to be a pretty good fit. It’s still too early in the process to tell whether or not it will be a successful venture but I continue to remain optimistic about the future based on my initial experiences.

In summary: 2016 is off to a good start.

In-Between Projects

Sunday, January 17, 2016

QQ Sweeper banner

For anyone interested in updates about my day job I just finished lettering the third and final volume of QQ Sweeper, a high school romance manga pictured above.

After a fairly hectic 2015 where most of my time in-between work projects was consumed by a very involved personal project it’s been nice to take a break, recharge and focus on other aspects of life outside of comics and being chained to the computer. Comic-making can be a fun and rewarding experience but for me, given the large amount of time/energy it takes and the small amount of income it generates, it’s something I can only afford to do in moderation (at least for the time being).

A Very Strange Man: Back Online

Thursday, December 31, 2015
A Very Strange Man animated pink promo

For those of you who were having trouble accessing my Very Strange Man series: the comic’s website ran into some unexpected technical issues and had to be shutdown while I was on winter vacation. I’ve since fixed the issues and the entire series is back online. You can start from the beginning here or jump to the last installment here.

Don’t miss your opportunity to read/share the comic before my hacker arch-nemesis dismantles my website again (or, in a far more likely scenario, my faulty hbml coding skills cause my website to explode again). :P

Sunflower Dog

Sunday, December 27, 2015
large dog in a sunflower field

Recently I’ve been experimenting with some new digital illustration and coloring techniques. Here’s an illustration of my parent’s dog I created on my Surface Pro over the holidays.

Jingle Jingle…

Saturday, December 19, 2015
Christmas statistical fact

Happy Holidays everyone!

The Strange Saga Concludeth!

Thursday, December 10, 2015
very strange man partie cinq promo large

My latest comic, the final installment of A Very Strange Man, has been posted here. Like Star Wars, this saga is best experienced on the big screen. I recommend reading on a laptop/desktop moniter in full screen mode (F11 on most PCs).

If you’re new to the series or need a refresher (it’s been a few months since the last one) you can start from the beginning here.

I started production on this series in October 2014 with the intention of finishing it before the following summer. It’s been a little over a year now that work on this series has consumed the majority of my free time, my weekends and my summer. I’ve missed out on a lot of events/hikes/vacation, I’ve neglected friends, I’ve neglected my finances. On the plus side I was able to see a long-term personal goal through to completion (which doesn’t happen every day). Also the very act of devoting so much time working out ideas and themes I feel strongly about via the creative process will probably save me thousands of dollars in therapy bills down the road.

In summary I don’t know if this comic was really worth the year it took to make it but I’m pretty confident that YOU will not regret the few minutes it takes to read it. Salud, happy weekend, hope you enjoy my silly comic. I’m going to meander away from the computer now and pass out on the closest piece of furniture with cushions on it.

Tomorrow’s another day, full of new possibilities and I look forward to greeting it with a stupid grin on my face…

Final Stages of Partie Cinq

Monday, December 7, 2015

A Very Strange Man comic notes and revisions

Various notes, revisions, and reference photos from the upcoming A Very Strange Man Partie Cinq. I’m currently in the final stages of the production process (web layout, tweaking artwork, resolving technical issues) and should be putting a bow on the comic soon.

A Very Strange Man Partie Cinq Teaser #1

Tuesday, December 1, 2015
promotional ad for 'a very strange man part 4'