Keeping Up with Pop Culture: Mandatory or Madness?

As a writer/publisher/designer guy, I feel obligated to keep up with what’s going on in the wide world around me (at least, insofar, as it impacts my sphere and that of my demographic). I know. I know. It sounds so dispassionate and distant and absolutely uncaring. Not so, I avow. The thing is, the clock has so many ticks in each minute which, in turn, are swallowed up by hours and flow into days.

We are in a world where we are inundated with some fantastic stuff. These things assail us remorselessly. We, in turn, cannot help but be mesmerized and amazed. There are some sweet things out there right now. The Avengers, The Hunger Games (the movie and the books), and all these great video games out here which are even a bigger time sink (Skyrim, Mass Effect 3, or The WItcher 2, anyone?) This is not even including the roleplaying games which surround us (and the growing pile which we, here the Blur, unapologetically contribute to) or the magnificently dangerous PC games, such as the newly released Diabolo III. And I read a lot of fiction from such excellent authors as Chuck Wendig, Matt Forbeck, and Jonathan Mayberry. And watch such kicking shows as Leverage from our friend, John Rogers.

I could spend all my time simply consuming this stuff. There is so much good stuff out there, it’s more important to pick and choose. I do so quite carefully. I’m sure you must too. Still, I cannot help but be attracted to the newness. I, at the very least, try to at least have a passing familiarity with what comes along. I just can’t keep up with each and everything. The choices I do make–the ones I think worth passing on–I do. We have to share what we know within our communities.

These things are not work in and of themselves. Don’t get the idea that I sit slack-jawed paralyzed by choice. I know what I like and often hone in my choices on certain things (often, some of these things are directly or indirectly related to what I work on). If I have a passion which overwhelms my free time, I find that cannot help but be good. My passion, our passion, shows in our work, our finished products.

How do you deal with the entertainment onslaught? Love to hear it!

Until next time, I bid you, dear reader, adieu!


3 Notes on, Keeping Up with Pop Culture: Mandatory or Madness?

  1. It seems like life has become more and more saturated with entertainment. The mass media singularity is neigh. I was happy when I tossed my television, but online entertainment filled in that void pretty quickly.

    I think it’s important to find things which benefit me as a person. My metric: will I learn from it? Will it inspire me to create something, or educate me?

    What you put into your brain is what you put out.

    Of course, this doesn’t always apply. It’s nice to snarf a bag of chips from time to time.

    I’ve also found myself trying to avoid mass media and spending more time interacting with individuals and my chosen communities. There is SO much out there – blogs, social platforms, conventions, etc. It feels good to be a part of these communities and I get so much more out of doing that than watching Fringe or playing Fallout. Unless of course I’ve had a bad day and there’s nothing I want more than to shoot some dudes and bury them in a shallow grave.

    I think it’s important to stay abreast of pop culture, but don’t let it swallow you up. Trusted social networks are a great buffer for the entertainment onslaught. Friends can help you find what you wouldn’t ordinarily have found, and also for weeding out the trash.

  2. These are the days I live for but, being a “time crunched gamer” means a very tight reign on the time. Also, I’m in my 40s so gone are the wasted weekends and time-suck video games. The closest I get to video games are the bi-weekly Maptool / Savage Worlds sessions with our online group. All 3 coasts are represented (Texas has the gulf) and it’s 3 hours of analog role-playing in a digital world! 4 members of the 6 are folks I played with for 3 decades+ and the joy of old school friends is a blessing. Every minute really does count. Within the hobby time allowed, our games are scheduled. Saturday mornings are savored and scheduled for a movie. I look forward all week to the earliest movie showtime. I’d be at a 9am if they had them. Then comes the Saturday afternoon. Revel in a time of imagination and creativity. Writing/drawing/web stuff. Saturday evening is “date night”. My wife is an old school Whovian and Trekker so if nothing new is out, it’s to the library of DVDs, board games, and rpgs. Sneaking in some gratuitous posting time like this comes after work and before errands, chores, and dinner. Drive time traffic becomes a conference call time with my oldest and best friend, the Savage Troll, and blog topics and projects are squeezed in the 30 minute drive. So, Savage Worlds, Maptool, the Blog (, Movies and Date Nights! Not a minute wasted. Its what keeps us young, imaginative, and refreshed.

  3. Right. Keeping up with the latest is something that I fail to do, but I fail deliberately and thus succeed. I set specific limits and structure my activities ruthlessly. On the gaming side of things, I run just one ongoing campaign event, “The Giggler Strikes Again”, three times each year at local conventions: DunDraCon, KublaCon, and Pacificon Game Expo.

    Using this system, after each run I gauge the effects of the characters’ actions and rework the campaign accordingly. The action then shifts exactly one year forward in game time to the reappearance of the Giggler, creating an ongoing campaign of one-off six hour convention experiences, always new and developing. This has been going on since 2003. I use the Savage Worlds system because it is fast, so I have more time for entertaining and eroding the sanity of my players. One day, I might even publish it.

    Here’s the thing: Having a group of newly-met actual humans working with me around a table to create an improvised saga, with a nice blend of structure and spontaneous reaction, is refreshing and a genuine experience, even if set in a fictional abstract environment. This is particularly evident when we spill drinks on cherished possessions and throw stuff. Six hours of an emotional roller-coaster takes a lot of energy, but we get out of it what is put in. There’s nothing quite like hours of more-or-less non-stop laughing while facing cosmic horrors from beyond the known universe. This kicks electronic games right out of the mix.

    I stay away from electronic and online games entirely now, having sacrificed sufficient existence to them, because I know that I’m simply staring at a screen with rapidly-shifting pixels, suffering under the illusion that I’m actually accomplishing something. Life is too short for this, in my opinion.

    Movies are great, by the way, specifically to use the visuals in my runs and gather equivalence points for my players. I’ll often start a game scene with my victims/players by asking something like, “So, who has seen Thor? Remember the look on Thor’s face when when the girl zapped him with the taser? Yeah, your character knows exactly how that feels right about now…”

    Philosophical interlude: Only reality exists, and it is always occurring exactly right now. The past and the future are interesting abstractions, but lack the traits of tangible existence or objective reality. Time is a useful tool, but is otherwise unreal. That being said, I keep datebooks, electronic reminders, and project plans because I’ve got goals and things that I wish to experience between now and the end of my individual existence.

    I live for the pursuit of pleasure, victory, health, wealth, power, skill, and wisdom, and I’m literally branded by these pursuits. Check Google for “Lord Mhor”. You may find it helpful to carefully define yourself, then pursue only the fulfillment of that definition until circumstances cause a shift in your identity. Avoid that which you despise like the plague! I live knowing that my existence will dissipate just as it formed – a temporary condition in an ever-shifting totality. I’m having great fun enjoying both the apparently pleasant experiences and such moments of horror and suffering as I am compelled to perceive.

    An example: I held my mother’s dying hand two weeks ago. By the time I got back to the hospital the following morning, she was dead but still warm, wrapped in a sealed body bag by the nursing staff. On the bright side, we both saw it coming and said all that needed to be said. Such is life.

    Now, vividly imagine yourself in such a hospital room, with all senses active, for real: Consider your electromagnetic field sense (yes, the sixth, the real thing, the one that lets you feel it when a storm is coming in, not some corny fiction), hearing, sight, smell, touch. Imagine the taste in your mouth as you face death head-on, right there. Do it. Experiences such as this lend richness to conscious existence, so I suggest that you cherish them and incorporate them into your gaming activities. This, combined with efficient use of resources, will improve your ability to entertain and touch the inner beings of those with whom you interact.

    This is the sort of mental exercise that will propel your writing and gaming to higher levels. This is what you channel out to your players so they can be torn from their comfortable cognitive abodes, and thus be stimulated to new awareness and sensory experience. People pay for this when they go to a gaming convention, or buy a printed product with which they can simulate something interesting.

    Live it. That’s it!

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