Avenger’s Endgame: An Experience Like No Other (Without Spoilers)

First off, I cried in this movie, and not because it’s quality cinema (although it is). I cried for a different reason:

Avenger’s: Endgame is the largest production of this type than I have ever known to exist, and it’s damned good.

It’s hard to understate what this movie means to people like me, or even those who only have loose attachments to the decade of movies from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. (Click here for a recap.) It all just works together well, especially in this current age where we’re bombarded with tons of information and branding.

Like gazing at a monument that has been built up over time, seeing the completed outcome was a beautiful sight to behold. While being big and grand doesn’t mean good, Endgame had SO much put into it, that it was hard for it NOT to resonate with people. Because chances are, you enjoyed at least one of the MCU movies leading up to it. Black Panther, Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, Ant-Man, and the other characters all have their audiences.

For me, it was like watching one of those bi-annual special edition comic books from my childhood play out in real life. It was pretty surreal. It would have been hard for me NOT to get choked up.

While I don’t do movie ratings, I will say is that this is a movie that should be seen even if it’s just for the sheer academic nature of what was built. Should people that don’t know their comic history watch it? Well, there were plenty of novice viewers in my theater that had blast, so I can’t leave anyone out.

Hell…you might even cry.


P.S. I also came down with a case of the emo on opening weekend. Don’t know where the hell I caught it from, but I think I’m over the worst of it. I’m think I’m still contagious though. *cough*

Artist Look: Andy Warhol

I like Andy Warhol and all of his soup cans, but not particularly because I like the images of his art. I do like his imagery, but the important part of his contribution was his reflection on pop culture, and what he saw in society and what we now call social media. He subverted the entire social consciousness and made us confront what was actually important to us: Fame and Fortune. His outgoing lifestyle was a part of his art, And for the most part, his art is still out there doing it. I can’t go a day without seeing some contemporary art referencing his legacy, intentionally or otherwise.

"Muhammed Ali", 1978 Andy Warhol
“Muhammed Ali”, 1978

His understanding and perspectives on pop art, our culture, work, and fame are quite relevant today, so I’m just going to use a couple quotes like people use memes:

“The day will come when everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes.”

Ah yes. This sort of thing happens all the time now. Because of access to social media and the way information spreads, you can go viral and be eradicated in the same hour. The true art starts to incorporate being a good marketer. Which brings me to the next quote.

“Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.”

People rely heavily on their creativity, marketing, and social savvy to get paid, Warhol kind of had it figured out. Seth Godin always talks about business as art, and echoes that perspective. (I’m sure he likes Warhol, but I’d have to ask him.)

So being out there and marketing yourself is a part of the gig. Even back when he was on the scene, he understood how his connected social lifestyle added to his art. He became a blueprint for the type of social self-marketing that we see today. And I can’t help but think about our current quality and quantity debate, so here’s my favorite quote, although I like it for different reason:

“Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”

"Mammy" 1981, Andy Warhol
“Mammy”, 1981

So yeah…that brings me to Gary Vee. A guy that is all about leveraging pushing content out there.

Now I could go on and on about Warhol and today’s society, but instead,
I’ll go post some more content somewhere else like a proper content factory would do.

And I’ll end with this one, because it resonates heavily with me:

“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”

So yeah. In the end, just make sure you’re getting things done. Now, if you’re looking for some Warhol material, here’s what I have for you:

Now go create something popular.

Nipsey Hussle – RIP

Nipsey Hussle wasn’t the most well-known artist, so I kind of feel the need to put a little bit of information out there about him. It’s hard to understate how much he meant to so many people, places, and things. And it wasn’t just dropping money or handing out turkeys, he was seriously involved in LA and abroad. I will probably update this as time goes on, and as I learn more.

First off, his legacy isn’t dead. He represents a force that’s been going through the Los Angeles community and will continue. He is survived by his wife Lauren London and his children.

Here’s one of my favorite songs of his. I had Outro on repeat during one of the shifts in my life. I have it on repeat now:

Nipsey was a positive force variety of ways.
Here’s a few that I know of:

  1. Was all about being self-made. Had a deal and then worked to do his own thing and ended up doing it better. He was a true entrepreneur.
  2. Was loved by his community and respected by both sides of the streets. (In other words, this wasn’t a “gang thing”.)
  3. Innovative mixtape marketer – Created and marketed the independently-released TMC marathon series of mixtapes that would all lead up to …
  4. Recently released his Grammy-nominated major studio album, Victory Lap. You can buy it now (or stream if you have Amazon Prime)<https://amzn.to/2TKsJZD>
  5. Represents one of the few artists that was able to successfully structure his business to own his publishing and his masters. This was possible because he never looked to the major labels for help.
  6. Never stopped learning or looking for more opportunities
  7. Owner of The Marathon, a popular clothing store in his neighborhood <https://www.themarathonclothing.com/>
  8. Innovative mixtape seller – created special-edition copies of his Crenshaw mixtape which he sold for $100 apiece. Jay-Z was impressed and bought a few. <http://bit.ly/2FLfGSA via Forbes>
  9. Founder of Vector90 – Co-working space, cultural hub and incubator <https://www.vector90.com>
  10. Was the driving force behind making Destination Crenshaw happen.
  11. Sat down and talked with many influential minds like Gary Vaynerchuk <http://bit.ly/2I3SiTf>
  12. Worked to end the problems associated with gang life (see picture)
  13. Opened a neighborhood fish market
  14. Opened a neighborhood barbershop
  15. Feature Mixtape 1 – The Marathon Continues – http://bit.ly/2uESuQR
  16. Feature Mixtape 2 – The Marathon – http://bit.ly/2UcpuiA
  17. Feature Mixtape 3 – Crenshaw – http://bit.ly/2ODeyEI
  18. Was working on a documentary featuring Dr Sebi because of the many health problems he saw around him
  19. Has a tattoo that simply says “PROLIFIC”, a sentiment I vibe with.
  20. Was an all-around cool guy


What Can You And I Do? SHOW UP!

“What can I do? SHOW UP!” 

A year and a half ago, I found myself at an art fair and discussing my frustrations with getting the kind of traction I wanted as a creative. My art friend/mentor decided to give me a few of her motivational works. Apparently, I had motivated her in some way, so it was a fair exchange. While she does really nice artwork, she likes to bang out these quickie sayings for fun. I didn’t particularly want them (I thought they were a bit cheesy for my walls), but I graciously accepted them.

A little later, I pick one up from my desk and put it up on the wall because it was taking up space on my desk and needed to be moved out of the way. The “Show Up” painting stayed there for months. 

Then comes the day Art in Bixby Park. I REALLY didn’t feel like going, even though I had already applied and set aside the day. I got out of bed to pick up for my phone from the dresser. I was going to text the coordinators and let them know I was bailing. That’s when I looked at my sign: “SHOW UP”. Shit. I sat in bed for a bit pondering our discussion and reluctantly packed up my things and made my way to Art in Bixby Park. 

It ended up being a lackluster day for a while, but then I turned the vibe around and started talking to people and getting excited about being out there. Because what else was I going to do? Sit around being lame? At some point, someone stopped by and left a card with me. It was fantasy and young adult author, Holly Stacey. 

I ended up following up with her and that led to me making several breakthroughs for Transcendent Press and meeting a completely unique set of people in the writing world. It’s currently the reason why I have been making the next set of short stories.

So yeah. SHOW UP. The whole attraction thing might just kick in, and whole thing might end up being well worth your while.

Doing When Something Tries To Deflate Your Dreams

I don’t know what it is exactly, but with creative ventures, there are a lot of things that come along and try to deflate whatever it is I’m doing. Maybe you don’t have this problem, but I know that I do. It could be some comment online, a piece of advice, a bit of confusion about why someone else’s venture seems to be working, etc.

Whatever the case, there’s always something that seems to put a dent in the spiritual momentum of the creativity.

So what can be done? The obvious answer that people from afar like to say is “don’t give up”. That’s easy advice, and not necessarily bad, but just plowing into a problem without the right mindset can cause resentment and things may start to go sour.

My dad used to ask me, “Well,…what *can* you do?” My mom’s version of that was, “So what do you *want* to do?” These are both very good questions. But they aren’t questions to ponder, they are questions to act upon in order to keep the momentum flowing. Because the most damaging thing to me as a creative is the lack of momentum in ANY direction.

Draw a picture.
Read something.
Try new music.
Go to a museum.
Make a dumb Facebook post.
Reply to a thread.
Help a friend.
Try a new angle.
ANYTHING that helps me let go of the resistance and get my mind back into creative mode.

Whatever the problem, I can’t let myself lose the drive to keep moving. I have to get re-aligned and I have to keep going. That’s just the person I want to be. Because once the flame goes out…poof.

The flame must be kept alive.

Fucking Disgusting

“Fucking disgusting.” I read that comment on one of my online posts and thought about it for a moment. It didn’t bother me, but I was legitimately curious as to why someone might have that type of reaction to my work. See, I’ve never really cared what people thought about me or what I do, and I have a horrible social barometer, so I usually end up fascinated by people, but a bit distant. I don’t know what people think is too much in any given direction. I described this to my cousin and she acknowledged that I’ve always been “filtered”. Since I’ve started doing more art, that filter has been going away. I accept that. While I don’t censor my thoughts and feelings, I also don’t feel that I’m a good communicator of my actual feelings. So I have to carefully lay out what I’m going to show and tell. I don’t lie to people, I just have difficulty telling people what they think they want to hear. It feels quite unnatural for me. It’s something that’s been annoying me for years.
So what should I do?
Oh right…Make more art.

I Closed Down My Art Studio. So What Now?

No new products to announce today, just speaking and catching up. Earlier this year, I got the news that I’d have to shut down my art studio. Just recently, it happened, and I moved out. My  paint and canvases into storage. I wasn’t completely bummed out though. My pop art commentary project that combined newspapers and magazines with painted game characters was about finished. From shows on Melrose in LA, to penthouses in Long Beach, to WonderCon in LA, and to PAX in Boston, I’ve had fun. I currently only have five Original Benja paintings remaining, and those are in my personal collection.

Even though my new home is more ready for painting than the condo I started painting in, I made a big decision when I moved out. I decided to go digital with this next set of ideas. There are some projects I want to try, and it required finding digital outlets.

As mentioned in previous emails, first up is Transcendent Press, my zine/story outlet. I don’t want to say much about it. We’ll just let it build organically. Anything beyond that would definitely be hype. (Did that sound like hype? Maybe I do like hype.)

Alright. I’m going to Target now. I need to pick up some soymilk, highlighters, and a dust mop. My creativity has needs.

– Mr Benja –

P.S. I haven’t sworn off painting for good. And if you have some of my art, send me a picture! Thanks. 🙂

For The First Time This Month, I Didn’t Keep It 100. I Only Kept It 75.

After a lifetime of adjusting my time management / organization / planning options to fit the current vibe, I have taken one step back and fallen into the arms of on an old friend that I thought was long gone…the plain paper wall calendar. Yep. This tried and true tool hasn’t been in my house for ages and now I’ve found a good use for it in spite of my phone, planner, and reminder lists.

What’s also something I never thought about is how the a traditional calendar would actually become a visual distraction. I’d be focused on something, and then I’d start thinking about two days from now, a week from now, or next month. Before I knew it, I start to wonder about something unimportant way down the line that really wasn’t important. I have my digital calendar for that. (Hmmm…is it walnut season yet? Maybe I’ll learn how to make banana bread for the holidays this year.)

So why did I bring the calendar back like this? Two reasons: Accountability and Completeness.  I made an earlier post about crossing off days of the year as a given task was habitually completed. This worked out well, but since it was an app, I could just turn my phone off, or not think about it. What about the notifications? I would just turn them off. What I needed was a tool that stared me in the face and made me work and maintain focus instead of distracting me with events. Because now? There’s only one event for the day. And that is to keep it 100.

So that brings us to the second reason. I had to use the “100”. Psychologically, the idea of “keeping it 100” resonates so much better to me than the common red ‘X’. That felt to me like days were being checked off in prison or like I needed to cross the day out from memory. I suppose a check mark would have been suitable, but come on buddy, you know when you really didn’t do your job and you just wanted your participation trophy. It’s like when a kid tells you that the floor was swept, but only one dustball was pushed under the rug before the PS4 was back on. That’s a check mark, but not keeping it 100.

So there you have it. Me getting things done by using an old school tool based on a new school phrase. 💯

P.S. I was actually pretty happy with the progress made on Sunday, so I felt good enough to call it a wrap at ’75’ and go to bed.