Hi and welcome back! Last night, I was just thinking about how social media has made it so much easier and simpler for those with passions to connect with each other and share what they’re doing. It wasn’t like that when I was younger, that’s for sure. Today, Lord Snow Presides over one of the very best aspects of modern life: how the internet allows a labor of love to be shared so much more easily and widely than ever before.
The Limestone Sculptor and His Lifelong Labor of Love.
When I lived in small-town Kansas, I learned about a sculptor who lived in the area. His name was — or rather, is — Pete Felten. He’s old now but still alive, according to his Facebook page. He works in limestone, of all things.
Limestone isn’t very easy to sculpt at all, but it has the advantage of being both inexpensive and plentiful in that part of Kansas. So he figured out how to sculpt it. Over time, the towns in his area supported him quite well because he liked to sculpt pieces representing the kinds of barely-tamed-Wild-West stuff Kansas people like, like fierce sheriffs, buffalo, etc. His sculptures dot the cities and towns in the region, each one very recognizable as his work. Here’s one example:
Back then in the mid-to-late 1990s, Felten’s influence was largely limited completely to that part of Kansas. I’d certainly never heard of him. But now, thanks to social media and online blogs and news sources (like this blog’s writeup online), his art can be enjoyed all over the world. You can even buy one of his works for your own enjoyment, be you one town over or half a world away. He’s adapted well, it seems, to the newer ways of getting word out to new audiences.
Pete Felten loves what he does, that’s clear from everything he says in interviews. He loves Kansas, and he loves being there and having his work and life be part of its emotional and physical landscape. From that blog post I linked a moment ago, we can read this:
“When you look at my life, I’ve got a nice truck, lots of nice stone, my dad’s property—I’m in hog heaven here. I was born and raised here. Where am I going to? Italy?”
Indeed: What could Italy offer him that Kansas doesn’t already give him gladly for almost nothing?
Indeed, Pete Felten doesn’t need to go anywhere. He’s got a way now to reach the whole world without moving a step off of his property. And now you, too, know about him and can enjoy a unique style of art from the comfort of wherever you might be right now.
The Labor of Love of Reviewing a Labor of Love on YouTube.
Last night, I watched a popular YouTuber, Elvis the Alien, review a movie that he’d adored, Color Out of Space.
Normally, he says, he reviews movies he doesn’t like at all. But he happened to love the story this movie adapted, H.P. Lovecraft’s 1927 short story “The Colour Out of Space.” So he wanted to share that movie with his audience. In a lot of ways, this movie review would already represent a labor of love. But as I watched the video, I realized that the movie itself, too, represented a labor of love.
Its lead actor, Nicolas Cage, turns out to be another Lovecraft fan — along with the director!
So we had this weird little indie movie created by Lovecraft fans by adapting a weird little short story from almost a century ago, then reviewed by another fan who was afraid that his fans might somehow miss this little gem of a movie.
Way back when, it was so much harder to learn about movies like this. Now, it’s as easy as opening a social media site. For example, I didn’t seek out this video; I barely even know who the YouTuber is. The YouTube algorithm decided I might like it and stuck it at the top of my recommends list. To its credit, the algorithm was right. But you can also find gems of videos like this one through long dives through the right-hand YouTube navigation bar. That bar gets stranger and stranger the further you go.
Our friends also share the videos that they liked — all the time. You can completely confuse your account’s algorithms that way, but it can yield a lot of gold if you let it.
Passions Meeting Together At Last.
Long ago, passions like these had to be spread via word of mouth, or — if you knew the right publications to read — in print, which required a publisher and editor to run such work. The barrier to entry for reviewers and commentators was much higher, and many ended up in obscure little fanzines that reached maybe just a few hundred people tops. I wrote for one such fanzine as a tween.
If someone couldn’t gain access to those strongholds, their influence would likely be extremely limited. If they had a weird hobby or some obscure skill, chances were good only their friends knew much about it.
At the time I lived in Kansas, I also knew a guy who was an absolute genius with painting and modifying gaming miniatures. He could turn one of those gaming-sized dragon figurines (similar to this one; about 15″ tall) into a full dragonrider sculpture, painted and complete with handmade and hand-placed riding tack and a rider somehow, and you’d never even know it didn’t come right out of the box that way. But blogs didn’t exist then, and neither did social media. Thus, not even everyone at our shared workplace (a dreary call center) knew about his amazing talents.
But now, you can find dozens of social media accounts on every platform for those desiring to meet with mini modders. Here’s one on YouTube:
Here’s an Instagram artist who does similar work. (His account’s not all SFW so be careful.)
And here’s an Austin-based minis group with an online presence, advertising to the folks around there who might want to meet up to paint minis together and learn how to paint them better.
Moving away from dragons and minis, who can forget all the bands who got their start on MySpace?
Or the TikTok teens who may have cost Donald Trump some dignity and money during his campaign last year?
It amazes me to think about how much easier it is to find other people sharing our passions than it has ever been in our entire history as humans. The moment a new way to do that comes up, we leap on it with both feet!
A Labor of Love: Shared, Connected, and Spread.
Out of everything else that we can say about social media — and not all of it’s good by a longshot, yes — the best thing we can say about it is that it allows people to find each other and share their passions in ways that we’ve just never been able to do before now.
There’s just this quintessential human urge to perform together. Not just to perform, though there’s that. We want to show off what we can do for an audience. Yes. Like this guy who carved a Corvette out of wood, just cuz, and put it on video for a huge audience:
One of these passionate performers can easily find a place and an audience. Such performances can even turn their labor of love into a very lucrative source of income, as I’m sure it has for the woodcarver and his 2.3M subs, and the Elvis movie reviewer and his 1.4M.
The barriers for entry are so much lower for people with such interesting talents. Even people with no talents at all try to become big names in social media, lured by the idea of audiences and money. Indeed, such people also often try to create fake social media accounts to break into the so-called “influencer” industry, where people sometimes become famous just for being pretty and having a Zen-like sense of exactly what sorts of photos to take of themselves at what times. Part of our growing-up process in this new modern age is learning to spot these fakes. (I’m sure evangelical leaders, the essential pious frauds that they are, just lurrrrrrrrrrve how quickly that growing-up is taking place.)
However, I’m not talking about these lackluster sorts. I’m talking about people with passions and talents who are finding their place at last among those who appreciate them.
And today, Lord Snow Presides over that apparently near-universal human desire to share our passions and talents with those who appreciate them and share them.
The future’s so bright, we gotta wear shades.
NEXT UP: Women pastors have become an evangelical argument again. Tomorrow, I’ll show you exactly why that exact argument keeps erupting in their circles. See you then! <3
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About Lord Snow Presides (LSP)
Lord Snow Presides is our off-topic weekly chat series. Lord Snow was my very sweet white cat. He actually knew quite a bit. Though he’s passed on, he now presides over a suggested topic for the day. Of course, please feel free to chime in with anything on your mind: there’s no official topic on these days. We especially welcome pet pictures!
Last thoughts about that Austin mini painting group: Interestingly, I have that exact unicorn mini in their picture! It comes as close to be a classic as anything in the mini world could, I guess. I painted mine already, and now I keep it in my china cabinet with a bunch of others I’ve done. Way back when, I was once reckoned a very good mini painter. In Kansas, I made a tidy amount of money painting Warhammer armies for local gamers. Mini painters, as well, have adapted to social media and online services.