Marvel sales did an abrupt about-face over the weekend. On the same day that Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso was profiled in Fortune for championing diversity in comics, Marvel sales VP David Gabriel decided to blame diversity for Marvel’s flagging sales numbers. In regards to diversity, Gabriel had the following to say.
What we heard was that people didn’t want any more diversity. They didn’t want female characters out there. That’s what we heard, whether we believe that or not. I don’t know that that’s really true, but that’s what we saw in sales. We saw the sales of any character that was diverse, any character that was new, our female characters, anything that was not a core Marvel character, people were turning their nose up against. That was difficult for us because we had a lot of fresh, new, exciting ideas that we were trying to get out and nothing new really worked.
Gabriel later walked back his comments on Marvel sales, clarifying that Miles Morales, Ms. Marvel, Spider-Gwen, and Moon Girl are all popular characters. Still, this reeks to me. It feels very similar to DC You, where DC attempted to do diversity in comics and then pulled out less than a year later.
It seems to me that Marvel sales wants the pat on the back and to be able to tout their diversity to mainstream media without actually committing to pushing unknown characters and giving them time to grow. This already seems to have been confirmed, as Marvel just announced the Marvel Generations crossover that will bring back all the legacy characters that have been incapacitated recently, such as Hulk, Wolverine, and Iron Man.
As a comic writer (but not a big comic reader) I find this pretty amusing. Marvel sales needs to do what it needs to do, but it seems that a sales executive commenting on the viability of a PR initiative is a stupid move that makes Marvel look like its unwilling to put its money where its mouth is.
That being said, the demographics of comic book readers suggest that men and women are relatively equal in reading comics. Maybe instead of tokenizing diversity, Marvel needs to do a better job in telling complete stories and not running crossovers every sales quarter. If they were to focus on creating fully-realized characters who aren’t beholden to Marvel sales, then maybe they will see readership go up. This happened with previous series that told great stories like Hawkeye and Vision, and I don’t see why it can’t continue to happen.
Well all remember when future president Donald Trump destroyed Marco Rubio with the nickname ‘Little Marco.’ Since then, Marco Rubio has more or less been a laughingstock among liberals and conservatives alike, and has mostly lost his prominence as a Republican figure.
But that may be misguided. This article on Slate details how Marco Rubio guided a 2015 spending bill to gut the healthcare marketplace. I only entered the insurance marketplace late last year, but was shocked to see even my employer sponsored healthcare come with an over $6k deductible. This is something I will never meet, bar an act of God. But according to this article, that sharp increase in deductibles was created by design, and was not an accident or consequence of healthcare reform.
It turns out that Marco Rubio and his Republican helpers guided this legislation by gutting what is called the ‘risk corridors’ under Obamacare. This was a tax incentive to reimburse insurance companies through taxpayer dollars for taking on an initial batch of sick people who previously did not qualify for insurance. But Little Marco in all his insight decided to cull this reimbursement through a massive $2.5 billion tax cut. He then helped pass the cost on to insurance companies who were acting in good faith, which is what caused the deductibles and premiums to skyrocket in early 2016. This was bound to happen, as insurance companies and ‘good faith’ should generally not be used in the same sentence.
While Paul Ryan has an obvious misunderstanding of how healthcare works, insurance companies generally make their money off healthy (or uninjured people), who more or less pay for the sick people whose costs can rack up to hundreds of thousands of dollars. But by design, it turns out, healthcare reform was destined to fail. While it might seem that Republicans will move on to other legislative matters now, I would expect another healthcare ‘repeal and replace’ bill to come out soon, presumably one that doesn’t take healthcare away from 25 million Americans.
Still, it’s fascinating to see that things that border on conspiracy theory actually have taken place in the public record. Marco Rubio may not have realized what he was doing, and may have just seen that as a tax cut, but there is more than just a strong correlation here. There’s a causation that defunding the ‘risk corridor’ of Obamacare would cause insurers to pull out of the healthcare marketplace. And if that doesn’t piss you off, then I don’t know what will.
Although the term ‘third world’ is often disputed as a racist term, as it “obscures all parts of a country’s culture apart from those which are to be pitied or improved,” it is more or less the best popular nomenclature we have right now. To describe the disparity between economic and political climates of countries halfway across the world from each other is difficult, as they don’t necessarily have the same goals or values and might not think of themselves as developing nations in the way that the West does. That being said, Westerners traveling to the third world are likely to have certain expectations about what may or may not be available. As someone who has done quite a bit of traveling , here are my recommendations for setting up your expectations when traveling to the third world.
You Can’t Drink the Water and You Might Get Sick
If you’ve ever planned a trip to Mexico, you’ve likely heard vague warning of Monetzuma’s Revenge (yes, the tourist version is misspelled) which refers to Moctezuma II, the ruler of the Aztec civilization. He was slaughtered and his people obliterated by Hernán Cortés, the infamous Spanish conquistador. As the story goes, the ghost of Moctezuma II is responsible for interlopers in Mexico getting the stomach flu as a petty form of revenge.
What this story really refers to is traveler’s diarrhea, which is very real, and which on my return trip from Morocco have contracted a minor case of. This is usually caused by E.Coli that your body may not be used to, and can easily be contracted from water or street food. If you see anything questionable, it’s best not to eat or drink it, or traveling to the third world will not be something you want to repeat.
You Don’t Have Absolute Freedom of Movement
In most Western nations you expect that you can go anywhere you want. You may not want to visit most of the country you live in, but you are not restricted from doing so. That’s not the case when traveling to the third world, as governments tend to be a bit more authoritarian and have closed off certain non-essential obscure areas to tourism.
For example, on a recent trip to Egypt Alex and I attempted to go to Al Menya. For context, Al Menya is the ancient (and brief) capital city that Akhenaton established when he unsuccessfully attempted to convert ancient Egyptians to monotheism. For anyone who knows me, I am a little obsessed with Akehnaten and he is one on the principal subjects of my upcoming graphic novel, so I was excited by the prospect to see such sites as the Tomb of Ay.
However, as we asked around how to get there, Egyptian nationals were shocked we wanted to go there in the first place, and we ultimately found out that if we were to have gone, we would have been immediately detained without an approved guide. While I was disappointed that we did not get to see those sites, it is a more obscure region and when traveling to the third world you can’t expect that areas not explicitly geared toward tourism will be open to you.
Minor Amenities Are Not Guaranteed
Toilet paper. Soap. Bath towels. Reliable internet. One would expect all of these amenities at any hotel in the United States or even a hostel in Western Europe (although you may have to pay extra for some of these). But depending on where you are staying, you might not have immediate or even any access to these types of amenities. There’s only so much you can do to prepare for this, like bringing your own roll of toilet paper and an extra bar of soap, but adjusting your expectations when traveling to the third world will go a long way in ensuring that you enjoy the experience for what it is, not despite it.
There Are ‘Hidden Costs’ Everywhere
It might seem like you will get a huge bargain when traveling to the ‘third world,’ but this is not always the case. Because capitalism is a relatively new system in these countries, many enterprising people will try to rip you off or will not be upfront with costs. Sometimes you might even be aware this is happening but have no other option. Still, you need to make sure that you are prepared to spend a bit more than the costs are on paper. Fees will often be tacked on to activities that were not clear or upfront when you booked them. This has actually happened almost every time that I’ve gone traveling to the third world.
Rather than get angry about this, I usually take it in stride, and understand the economic disparity between myself and the people in the country I’m visiting. That’s not to say I have the coin to start giving away money, far from it, but I can afford to understand that this is the reality of the situation. If you cannot or will not do this, I don’t recommend that you start traveling to the third world anytime soon.
Still, traveling to the third world can open you p to some amazing cultures and enriching experiences. This will not only give you perspective, but allow you to see some of the great sites of the world, including the Luxor Temple in Egypt, Tikal in Guatemala and Angkor Wat in Cambodia, all of which I’ve visited recently Keep all of this in mind when traveling to the third world and you’ll be sure to have a great time.
In my previous post, I discussed why I moved away from video game journalism after graduating college. But more broadly, I also moved away from journalism in its entirety (although I still do the occasional freelance piece). Actually, this effort in writing and regularly updating my blog is largely an extension of me wanting to continue to publish writing online on my own platform, but there is a reason that I and so many others have moved away from journalism as a legitimate and profitable career.
Coming from a journalism family (my father is a journalist) I always assumed that would also be my path after college. Like an Earnest Hemingway or Hunter S. Thompson, I’d write creatively and also go on assignments for magazines and newspapers, except in this era they’d be digital. But as I neared graduation of college, that path seemed increasingly unlikely. Despite having the credentials, I was mostly only able to land gigs writing ‘viral’ style content after college, and like a virus, these pieces of meme-able and GIF-able bite-sized articles felt like what the new journalism was, at least to me.
It would be one thing if these paid a meaningful amount of money, but in reality I was making more in my brief stint as a security guard than anything that the digital publications were willing to pay at that time. Even then, a standard piece for a mid-level digital publication pays $75, a pittance when you consider the hours of revision and editing that need to be followed.
Teaching and Journalism Have a Lot in Common
Fundamentally, what this represented to me was a shift, not just a cultural one but an economic one. Of the industries to initially be affected by the digital boom and subsequently the economic recession of the late 2000’s, journalism is one of the biggest examples. Like teaching, journalism is quickly becoming an unrepresented profession. The pay does not attract the best minds, but only those who both believe in the kind of work they are doing and can afford to or are willing to take a lower pay rate than most other professions provide at similar levels of experience.
But what is really fundamentally similar about teaching and journalism is that they are both services that the majority of us don’t pay for anymore. While you can send your kids to private schools or subscribe to high-end magazines, the majority of us neither pay for education (at least before college) or for the stories we consume online. This leads to an undervaluing of the profession in general. That’s not to say that we ought to start paying for either service in the near future, as the cultural shift has already occurred, although journalism is definitely suffering greatly in the process. But we need to recognize that failing to do so erodes innovation in both industries and means that on the whole we won’t have the best and brightest taking over the mantle from the aged veterans of teaching and journalism.
There’s No Such Thing as a ‘Noble’ Profession
At the end of the day, we all work because we have to make a living. The current economic realities of our system require us to all work, and the top talent usually goes elsewhere when the money dries up. That’s not to say that the future generations of teachers and journalists will all be mediocre. In fact, I’m sure plenty of great teachers and journalists are still yet to come.
But as long as we look at both as undervalued and condescendingly think of them as ‘noble’ professions, then we won’t make teaching and journalism viable industries for people to go into. And if both the dissemination of information into young minds and into everyday citizens continues to be devalued, then it’s not too long until future generations are unable to see any value in these professions at all.
At one point, I was known (at least in certain circles) about being in video game journalism. In the past, I wrote for many independent video game sites, including Dualshockers, Platform Nation, Buzzfocus (RIP) and so many others that there are too many too name.
All in all, while I didn’t have any mainstream success in video game journalism, I did write well over a thousand articles and probably over a hundred reviews and features.
While all that sounds impressive, it probably actually isn’t. The vast majority of that was done in college, when I felt like I was setting myself up for a post-college career that started to not really exist the closer I got to graduating. That being said, here are some of the reasons that I am no longer a video game journalist and now pursue other avenues of writing and creating.
There is Very Little Money In Video Game Journalism
No one ever gets into writing for the money, but even less people get into video game journalism for the money. More people get in it for the free games, the press events and the free games (again) than you would think. But with the rise of digital journalism, reviews and think-pieces on games are way less meaningful than they used to be. When someone with a laptop and enough money to maintain a WordPress site (like me) can call themselves a video game journalist, the name starts to lose meaning.
There are still established sites, but even those at IGN or Polygon are paid a pittance in comparison to those on the PR side of things, or even what I make now. That doesn’t mean you necessarily have to join them, but you don’t have to be them either.
I Have Other Things I Want To Write About
Video games are not as big a part of my life as they once were. I still have a PS4 and a gaming PC, and find myself regularly playing Hearthstone, but I’m not the gamer that I once was. Video game journalism was actually a big part of what started to turn me off to gaming in the first place. Putting those expectations on me just made me enjoy gaming less.
Now I travel and read more, and while those were also activities I enjoyed in the past, I am now more empowered to indulge in them more in young adulthood. Games haven’t gone by the wayside at all, there are just other things that interest me more now, especially in my writing.
“Actually it’s about Ethics in Video Game Journalism”
Well, maybe not entirely. But after GamerGate, I realized that there is a lot of toxicity in the gaming community and mostly stopped associating myself with video game journalism. That’s not to say I didn’t write about games at all after GamerGate. I certainty did. But I just didn’t have the same passion it that I used to. There was something a bit lost for me.
And once it occurred to me that it wasn’t writing, it just writing about games that kind of dulled my interest in writing, I stopped soon after. That doesn’t mean that I still don’t read video game journalism or don’t think that its existence is vital. It just means that I don’t write about games anymore.
And that’s ok. Ultimately, being a video game journalist in college and after graduating did allow me to build up my writing portfolio, write for some mainstream outlets outside of video game journalism, and actually start to value my work and charge and receive legitimate rates for my writing in other industries. As a writer and digital marketer, I needed to start somewhere, and video game journalism was a great proving ground for me to build up the professional experience I needed to succeed with my job in PR management for an SEO company and in comic book and screenwriting.
It may seem obvious that the best way to keep up a blog like this is to Just. Keep. Writing.
But getting tens of readers is not always great motivation to keep up. In fact, I already broke my mental promise to myself to keep up this blog at a rate of twice a week.
Since missing a post for a week, I found that my traffic plummeted from tens of views a days to ones of views a day. The joke is, I work in marketing, more specifically, I work in SEO.
Because of this background I actually do know how to promote these types of posts and bring traffic to a website. With that in mind, here are some quick tips I can give you to promote a blog that is meant to market or promote a product, service, or service provider.
Check the SEO of your Marketing Blog Whether You’re Naughty Or Nice
The most important thing you can do is if, like me, you’re a bit too lazy to write a blog post three times a week, is optimize all the SEO content within every post that you make. I haven’t yet done this for all the pages on my site, but I have at least made a serious attempt at doing so on all three of my blog posts so far.
The easiest way to do this is you aren’t an SEO expert (I’m far from one myself) is to set up an SEO plugin on your marketing blog. The one I use is Yoast and I’ve found that it helps greatly with selecting the proper meta titles, the proper amount of content and even the readability of you writing. If you’re at a lot to how to do this, the recommendations from this plugin are a great place to start.
Research Those Keywords Like You Mean It
There’s nothing worse than a poorly researched keyword. Actually, there are a few things worse than that, but they aren’t worth mentioning in this article. But if you don’t know what you’re trying to promote your marketing blog for, then it probably won’t take off at all.
The best way to find out what keywords to write about is do a little research on what the layman is actually searching for. A lot of SEOs think that if searching for a product, people will search directly for that product.
But the reality is is that people are usually using the Internet is to find solutions for their problems (or porn, at least according to Avenue Q). For example, if someone is suffering from heat stroke, it is unlikely that they are going to be searching for a product. Instead, they will probably search for “how to get rid of heat stroke?” This is why long tail keywords are becoming more important in both SEO and marketing.
Write What You Might Want to Read
“A writer is someone who writes.” That’s what my writing mentor at Sarah Lawrence taught me. But to take it a step further, a writer is also someone who reads the type of content that they write. If you’re a fantasy novel writer, it’s unlikely that you’ve never picked up Lord of the Rings, or at least a fantasy novel that is derivative of it.
Extend this philosophy to marketing a blog and you’ll have tens of readers in no time. At the end of the day, it’s better to attract the type of readers that you want reading your content, no matter what type of writing you’re doing.
According to a recent Gallup poll cited by the New York Times, “43 percent of employed Americans said they spent at least some time working remotely.” That, of course, does not mean that all people who do some remote work are working from home all the time. Or that remote work is even the right choice for all people or for all industries.
What it does mean is that remote work is becoming a growing trend, and there’s a reason for that. Besides for the obvious benefit to people like myself, such as the flexibility to work from wherever you want (in my case, Granada, Spain) and the ability to set your own schedule (within reason) there are some overlooked benefits and drawbacks as well which we’ll take a look at below.
Working from Your Pajamas Is More Productive
Freedom is a great thing. In fact, freedom is such a great thing that many employees are choosing it as a perk they want to see their companies offer.
It works out that employers save quite a bit this way too. Fast Company recently cited a study of the Chinese travel center Ctrip by Nicholas Bloom, professor of economics at Stanford University. He found that Ctrip was able to save $1,900 per employee over a nine month period, and also reported increased levels of employee satisfaction and productivity.
Of course, it’s easier to be productive when nobody is watching over your back constantly, and when the work that you are doing is more results-based and project-based it makes sense. That won’t work for every industry, but if you’re in an industry that values autonomy and individual contributions over collective action and thought, you’ll likely find yourself being more productive in a familiar and comfortable setting.
It Requires Self-Discipline
The flipside of working at home (or at least outside the office) is you actually have to work at home. This is harder for some than it is for others. In fact, every time I’m in my childhood home, my Jewish mother opines about how difficult it would be for her, “there’s just too many distractions.” Even the New Yorker recognized the difficulty of focusing while working home. In a recent humor column, a distraught home-based employee calls into 9-11 to report that “I . . . uh . . . I work from home.”
The key is to have somewhat of a routine. This doesn’t have to be such a rigid routine, like waking up at 6:45am and getting to the gym before 8am. No, all a routine needs to be is working from the same spot (ideally away from distractions like Netflix or video games) and using ‘keystone habits,’ which are correlated with other good habits. These don’t necessarily have a cause and effect relationship, but they are the kind of habits you need to build in order to work successfully. That still doesn’t mean you can’t write in your underwear though (which I never do).
There’s My Way or the Highway
Ultimately, there’s no best way to work remotely, but being put into a box never worked for anyone, especially if they are in a more strategic or creative industry. For some of us, our best thoughts come in the shower, at the gym or while running errands. Corporate culture, after all, never really changed with the adding of ping-pong tables or nap nooks.
But what works for one person may not work for another. The values that remote work culture mostly promotes are access and attitude on the behalf of employers to employees, and that can be accomplished both remotely and in an office by having all members of a company be present and available to each other and forming a less rigid hierarchical structure.
Hello there. You might have heard of me, but probably not. That’s ok though, The goal here is to change that, or at least try to.
I’m starting this blog, and by extension this website, with the hopes of giving myself a platform to say the things that I haven’t really been able to say before. For a long time, I published articles across the web, mostly on gaming sites, but also on bigger sites too, but for a while now I’ve made most of my money in marketing. While that certainly pays the bills better than writing, it doesn’t really give me a way to express myself, at least not beyond the confines of social media.
So now that you know why I’m publishing this blog, I’ll now give you an idea of what I’m going to be writing about. Expect me to talk about culture, a lot of culture. Popular culture (video games, TV, entertainment), culture (travel, books and sociological stuff) and politics (the culture of the Now). I’ll also delve into some more professional topics, including marketing, creative writing, SEO, and more.
Thanks to Alex (my waifu) of The Wayfaring Voyager for setting this site up for me. I’m good at a lot of things, but web design is not one of them. I hope to update here at least once a week, with the hope of publishing all of my writing here. I’ll still pitch to bigger platforms on occasion, but now that I’m financially secure there is no real reason to aside for the prestige. Instead, the goal is to build a little niche audience of tens of readers here and create an email list to send this out to need.
That’s about all there it to it right now, as I sit in my apartment in Granada in my pajamas, but I’ll have more to say soon.