Don’t go to art school — I. M. H. O.
The traditional approach is failing us. It’s time for a change.
By Noah Bradley

This. I am living this. 

For those that are in school now: Good on you for going for education! You are strong and brave. I got your back. I will help you every step of the way. I will help you join ranks int he artist community. 

Remember you don’t HAVE to run this like a race. You CAN get what you need and then get out. You don’t HAVE to finish. 

You don’t need a teacher to tell you you can work for Disney or Pixar. Draw every day, several times a day. Use the resources in this link. Watch yourself grow. WORK at it, because the money won’t. 

The Emperor's New Clothes (The Myth of Moffat's Scriptwriting 'Genius') by Claudia Boleyn

Today I read an article about Steven Moffat’s Doctor Who in the Arts and Books section of the Independent on Sunday. In this article, by Stephen Kelly, Moffat is criticised for his inability to write women, to complete his plots, to write the Doctor as a likeable and trustworthy figure, and to keep his audience entertained. Yet one line in this frankly scathing (and almost painfully truthful) review reads: ‘When on form, Steven Moffat is the best writer working in television today’.

Having read said article, and written rather a lot of Moffat critique myself, the statement baffled me. Kelly’s entire article is lamenting the current state of Doctor Who at the hands of this man, and yet Moffat is still gifted with glowing praise.

It’s a common theme. I see it often when people are asked to review Moffat’s work. It seems people are almost afraid of criticising him, seeing as he has been lauded one of Britain’s most brilliant television writers.

It’s like the Emperor’s New Clothes. The Myth of Moffat’s Scriptwriting ‘Genius’. It’s a lie we’ve all absorbed and now just assume to be true. Sherlock himself would be frankly appalled by the entire thing. We are seeing, but we apparently do not observe.

Fellow Sherlock watchers will know what I mean (although many will probably not agree) when I equate Moffat’s writing to the empty houses of Leinster Gardens. An empty façade. It looks great from the outside, but when you step closer, you realise it’s just a whopping great train station with some drugged up self-proclaimed sociopath lurking in it.

 Let’s examine this case a little closer, shall we?

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Today we discuss the conventions of art critique and explore the possibility of the internet as an arena for constructive critique. Can we do it?!

Recommended reading:

Matthew Goulish, 39 Microlectures: In Proximity of Performance (2000)

James Elkins, Art Critiques: A Guide (Second Edition, 2012)

Kendall Buster and Paula Crawford, The Critique Handbook: The Art Student’s Sourcebook and Survival Guide (2nd Edition, 2009)

A recent picture found on twitter which made me realize exactly how horrible the school system is. They are not actually concerned with the kids knowledge, but rather their achievements on paper. Those achievements are what earns our educators those high ranks and titles. However, if you were to test the kids knowledge, on the actual material not their knowledge of how to pass a test, that student would not know half as much as what these standardized tests claim they know. These test aren’t even shaped for each students need. Take the SAT for example-one of the biggest test in determining a students “knowledge” for colleges to base off of, now that tests focuses on two things English reading and writing and mathematics. These are not the only guidelines by which you evaluate each student. You can not base a students intelligence on a few subjects, and you definitely can’t confine their knowledge on a 2400 scale. You are making some incredibly intellectual human beings believe they are not achieving great success; that and they haven’t even reached adulthood yet. 

– sincerely,
a concerned individual 

Listen carefully to first criticisms made of your work. Note just what it is about your work that critics don’t like - then cultivate it. That’s the only part of your work that’s individual and worth keeping.
—  Jean Cocteau

So, in these urgent times, it is particularly appropriate to critique the social institutions that uphold such hypocrisy, including a popular project whose very substance is the triumph of sentimentality over empathy, of platitude over inquiry, of imitation over creativity: the boldly-titled Humans of New York (HONY).

 HONY is a blog—published on Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and recently in print—that features portraits taken of New Yorkers on the street by the blog’s creator, Brandon Stanton, along with quotations from his interviews with the subjects. Initially formed as an attempt to create “an exhaustive catalogue of New York City’s inhabitants,” it has become the standard bearer of all that is warm and fuzzy about “humanity.” The stories it shares celebrate people’s greatest achievements, their deepest fears and most trying struggles, along with the quirks that make them unique individuals, all collected and presented in clean digital formats for home consumption. Despite the seeming inconsequentiality of such a social media phenomenon, its irrelevance to the day’s real political matters make significant, and troubling, its incredible popularity.

  One of the most glaring threats that HONY makes to humanity lies in its pretension of representing all of its diversity through the lens of a single individual. While claiming to define the population of New York, it presents a whitewashed image of an earnest, vibrant city that takes place predominantly in Manhattan, during the day. The individuals featured are only those Stanton feels comfortable approaching, those he deems interesting enough to photograph, who do not take offense to an intrusive white man’s request to commodify their images.

  Stanton acknowledges that his success rates in “artistic” areas like the East Village are strikingly higher than in, for instance, “somewhere like Bedford-Stuyvesant,” where he makes his home. Like a haughty gentrifier, he admits, “I do tend to value the portraits from rougher neighborhoods more, because they are harder to obtain, and rarer.” The blog grows like a collection of baseball cards, with individuals identified by whatever bits of personal information deem them “human,” their images representative of the exploits of a privileged voyeur who simultaneously exotifies and moderates the population around him.

  As Daniel D’Addario points out on Gawker, “It appears that Stanton sees people not as people but as vectors of how young, white New Yorkers see them.”

HONY aggressively promotes a wholly sentimentalized experience of New York City through a real-time disbursal of its faces, espousing an idea of inclusivity through a project of enforced uniformity. While the blog purposes to embrace diversity and celebrate each individual’s unique qualities, its effect is not to expand the rhetorical human category or challenge notions of conformity, but to accumulate and contain a more colorful array faces, neatly framed, within its restrictive scope. Beyond the exclusion inherent in a selective determination of what it takes to be counted among the “humans” of New York, the language of sameness it promotes carries a very alarming import.

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The Original Gender Reveal of Mass Effect’s Commander Shepard Means Nothing, and Here’s Why

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Late last week, Jonathan Cooper revealed on Twitter that, in the earliest animation tests for Mass Effect, the character of Commander Shepard was a woman, and the online equivalent of confetti was thrown by fans who played, and loved, Mass Effect through a female-centric lens. FemShep, after all, is the only Shep, right?

Except that’s not the case, not really. Not now, and not ever… and maybe I’m alone in this, but both the reveal and Cooper’s follow-up that “Shepard was always planned to be both male & female” was not exhilarating, but rather depressing instead. Oh, we could have had a major franchise anchored by a female character with an amazing voice actress, the kind of franchise that could (and did!) spawn major merchandising and had mass cultural impact, but instead we were fed the dominant image of MaleShep?


And now, in 2015, I can’t help but wonder: where might we be if Shepard had just been a woman?

Listen, I don’t mean to decry choice in character creation. I love choice in character creation and not only do I wish more games had it, but I wish there were even more options. I love being able to make a character my own, because it also helps me feel like I’m really shaping a world, and while I don’t know how others play, I adopt different play styles based on how I design my characters. This approach can make one game feel like several games, and really opens up the virtual world (and makes me feel like I got my money’s worth!).

But let’s be real: there are a lot more male protagonists than female, just as more protagonists are white or of indeterminate white-leaning racial makeup, and we’re all familiar with the reasons so often cited for these choices: more gamers are male, young white hetero cis-male gamers only want to play as white hetero cis-male dudes, everyone else is fringe, and to hell with them, basically. When we fire back that games with anchoring female characters are often poorly designed, poorly marketed, or both, the answer is almost always Tomb Raider. Tomb Raider was successful, and since Lara Croft exists and we have our one true video game heroine, that should be enough, right? She proves games with female heroines can succeed!

Except the more more realistic Lara Croft in the 2013 re-imagining pales in terms of sales compared to her monstrously proportioned earlier counterpart, and the 2013 version had its own problematic design choices for female gamers to grapple with besides. Let me say it plain: Lara Croft was never designed for female gamers. Not originally, at least. She is not us. She might be closer to us now, but that’s an issue to tackle another day.

I’ve been gaming most of my life, and I’ve spent most of that time playing as a man, seeing women put into dangerous situations for plot points and drama. I’m sick of being shoehorned into that role, and because of it, I’m playing less and less; a game has to be really good to lure me down that path. I want more. At this point, being offered a choice just feels like a band-aid meant to make loudmouths like me shut up, because hey, it’s something, right? You can be a woman, y’know, sometimes. So this reveal is far from monumental to me, except maybe to show how monumentally unwanted we are. Mostly it just cements what I’ve been told all my life: when it comes to games, women are either tools or they’re tolerated, but regardless, they’re relegated to the fringes.

FemShep was always a sideline. Reversible boxart for Mass Effect 3? Great – let’s put FemShep on the inside. Mass Effect website? BroShep. Let me show you; just yesterday, I visited the Mass Effect website and did an image search for “mass effect shepard.”

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Mass Effect website, January 2015

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First screen of results when searching for “mass effect shepard.”

That’s not a choice. That’s not equal presentation. It never has been, and as best as I can tell, was never meant to be, because the industry is geared, in every way, toward male players of a very particular type. I have this feeling we’re supposed to be grateful for the steps that are being taken. We’re seeing more people of color featured in games. Occasionally we get lesbians and gay men who are not stereotypes, but have actual human characteristics. We might even see someone without apparent gender markers. BioWare, in fact, has made a lot of these moves, and yes, I think it’s great. But it’s not enough, just as this reveal doesn’t make me happy, as it seems to have made a lot of people. Thanks for this bone, but I’m gonna throw it back. It’s nice to know that someone, at least, envisioned Commander Shepard as a woman, but it changes nothing, and it means nothing; the industry, and the folks directing it, are making the same choices now as ten years ago (and hell, sometimes, lately, they’re even worse).

(h/t Polygon, thanks to Adam P.)
Having a Thicker Skin

Understand that being a writer means being prepared for criticism

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Don’t freak out when someone doesn’t like your work. Its going to happen… sometimes more often than not.

There are more books out there on the craft off writing than Justin Beiber fans (Yes, believe it or not there’s that many). The average writer picks up a book on the craft at least once or twice in their writing career. It’s almost expected that, as a future author, you should.

What is not expected is building up a thicker skin.

Why would you need a thick skin as a writer?

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By keeping us focused on ourselves and our individual happiness, “Do what you love” distracts us from the working conditions of others while validating our own choices and relieving us from obligations to all who labor, whether or not they love it. It is the secret handshake of the privileged and a worldview that disguises its elitism as noble self-betterment. According to this way of thinking, labor is not something one does for compensation, but an act of self-love. If profit doesn’t happen to follow, it is because the worker’s passion and determination were insufficient. Its real achievement is making workers believe their labor serves the self and not the marketplace.

In the name of love by Miya Tokumitsu (at Jacobin Magazine)

This article speaks some hard truths.