True Fan Boost 2011

Posted by Arlo on Sep 5, 2011 under Here's an Idea, Postcard Valet

Having been on the road a good 14 months now, I haven’t had as many opportunities to support my favorite artists this year.  But that’s why I came up with this whole True Fan Boost idea in the first place, isn’t it?  To use Labor Day as a reminder to do just that!

So even though I’m unemployed and living off savings, I’m going to make sure to give at least a little something to the people’s whose work I enjoy.

Jonathan Coulton

Jonathan Coulton, who made headlines this year with his interview on NPR, has just released a new album — perfectly timed to coincide with my Labor Day purchase!  I just picked up the $10 digital download version of Artifical Heart, but I’ve yet to listen to it (I’ll wait until I have the time to give the first listen my full attention.)  JoCo’s put a lot of his music out there already, but this album is different.  It’s his first studio-produced outing and also his first major album with a theme.  I also see he’s got Suzanne Vega on there!  I’m looking forward to this.

But I’ll confess one thing.  I haven’t played Portal 2 yet, so I removed one song from my playlist until I first listen to it at the end of the game.  Spoilers!

Roam The Planet

If you’ve been following along on our travel site, Postcard Valet, you’ve probably heard me mention a couple new friends.  We met Wendy and Dusty in Ecuador, hooked up with them again in Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina, and even lived in the same building for a time in Buenos Aires.  We expect to see them again in Thailand in a couple months, too.

When our website got hacked through a WordPress Wootheme exploit a couple weeks ago, Dusty helped me out in a big way.  In a couple hours, he did what would have taken me days to figure out: Quashed the bugs, identified the attack’s entry point, and sealed the hole.  I’ve promised him a large beer tab in Thailand for his help.

It would be easy enough to just send you to their webpage and call it good, but my intention with the “True Fan Boost” is to remind you (as well as myself) to reward your favorite artists with money for their hard work – ideally throughout the entire year, but at the very least on Labor Day.  Otherwise this whole exercise is nothing more than Twitter’s mostly-ineffective  Follow Friday hashtag (#ff).

Now, like us, Wendy and Dusty have a travel blog,, but their goal isn’t to make money off the site.  Rather, they write entries and upload photos to journal their experiences on the road and share them with anyone else that may be interested.

But I noticed that they recently switched their photo hosting to Smugmug and I just went through and purchased a 4”x6” print of every photo I could find with either me or Oksana in it.  I don’t need them.  In fact, they’ll be mailed back to Alaska and we probably won’t even get to see them for a year or two (but they’ll be fun to flip through when we finally get home!)

Should be a surprise for Wendy and Dusty.  It’ll be interesting to see how they first discover our purchase: Through this blog entry or the Smugmug receipt.  🙂

Wil Wheaton

I used to read Wil Wheaton’s website all the time, but for the last few years, his RSS feed has been neglected.  I still follow him on Twitter, however, and noticed when he released a new short story under a pay-what-you-want model.  From his website:

Hunter is a short Sci-Fi story set in a dark and desperate world.  [It’s] just about 2,500 words. I figure that’s about the length of a story you’d read in a magazine.

Now you know as much about it as I do.  I just picked up the PDF version of Hunter and dropped it on my iPhone.  I’ve got a long train ride coming up (the Trans-Siberian railroad!) and it never hurts to have some extra reading material.

John August

Even while traveling, John August’s screenwriting blog remains in my “must read” RSS folder.  It’s hard to say why – I don’t aspire to be a screenwriter.  I do appreciate the craft of writing, however, and I want to read his opinions on the importance of story, how to create compelling characters, keep the plot moving, etc.

A couple years ago, I picked up his short story, The Variant.  I enjoyed it, so I’m wondering now why I haven’t yet picked up his second story, The Snake People.  Time to remedy that error.


If you have any interest in webcomics at all, you’ve probably heard of Scott Kurtz, Kris Straub, Dave Kellett, and/or Brad Guigar.  They each have long-running online comic strips, wrote a book together called How to Make Webcomics, and contribute to  I’ve met Scott and Kris through mutual friends in Seattle, but I knew them first through their Webcomics Weekly podcast (iTunes subscription link.)

I’m not even interested in creating a webcomic, so why would I listen to this podcast?  Because these four guys make their living selling their creative works on the web.  They’re often talking about the real-world business decisions they have to make on a daily basis.  They hash out important issues like copyright protection, scarcity in an everything-for-free world, online advertising, and the evolution from brick-and-mortar stores to digital eBooks.  That and they’re insanely entertaining.

Do yourself a favor and listen to the first 10 minutes of this episode.  Stick it out.  It’s worth it.

Webcomics Weekly #76: Laugh Track

Oh my god, the first time I heard that… I was on a bus in Bolivia, 2am, driving down a deserted mountain road.  Everyone on the bus, including Oksana beside me, was fast asleep.  I almost choked to death trying to keep the laughter inside!

Anyway.  Stripped.

Stripped: The Comics Documentary is a film that Dave Kellet and Fred Schroeder are in the process of putting together.   They’re using Kickerstarter to help fund the project and with 17 days to go, they’ve already far surpassed their goal of raising $58,000.  So why support them?  Well, two reasons:  1) Pledging money to their campaign can still net some cool rewards, and 2) I’m considering a Kickstarter campaign of my own next year and it’s past time I see how it works from the contributor’s side of things.

Child’s Play

Back in 2003, the guys behind Penny Arcade became frustrated with mainstream media’s portrayal of videogame players as anti-social and prone to violence.  They decided to fight back by creating Child’s Play, a charity that now provides games to over 70 children’s hospitals worldwide.  To date, “anti-social and violent gamers” have donated just over $9,000,000 to the cause.

They usually start their fund drives a little closer to Christmas, but you can always drop them a few bucks via the PayPal link on their front page.  Like I’m going to do right now.

Need more convincing?  Check out the PATV episodes on Child’s Play:

Season 1
Child’s Play, part 1 (Season 1)
Child’s Play, part 2 (Season 1)
Season 2
Child’s Play Charity Dinner Auction (Season 2)
Child’s Play Hire, part 1
Child’s Play Hire, part 2

And heck, if you don’t want to pony up your own cash for Child’s Play, you can at least give them a dollar by “liking” the Onlive fan page on Facebook before midnight tonight (5 Sept 2011!)  It can’t be any easier than that, folks.

In conclusion…

So, that’s my list for this year.  Some new, some repeats, but I think all of them are worth checking out.

I’m always on the lookout for new and interesting things.  If you’re reading this, chances are we share some interests and I’d love to find out what you think is worth my time and money.

I encourage you to take this holiday, a notoriously slow news day on the web, to use whatever forum you have to share your favorite independent artists with your own audience.  Maybe buy something from them if you haven’t already this year.

It’s Labor Day. Reward someone for their hard work!

See also
Labor Day – 2011 – Women in Comics
A Labor of Love