The Big Book of Pop Culture: A How-to Guide for Young Artists


It's culture creation made easy by a master of the independent art scene.

Join indie-guru Hal Niedzviecki on a how-to journey through the world of pop culture. In his upbeat, spirited style, Niedzviecki first provides a quick history of entertainment -- from its origins through to the present day, when corporate powers largely determine what we read, hear and watch.

Niedzviecki then shows how to reclaim cultural expression by encouraging ...

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It's culture creation made easy by a master of the independent art scene.

Join indie-guru Hal Niedzviecki on a how-to journey through the world of pop culture. In his upbeat, spirited style, Niedzviecki first provides a quick history of entertainment -- from its origins through to the present day, when corporate powers largely determine what we read, hear and watch.

Niedzviecki then shows how to reclaim cultural expression by encouraging everyone to use the tools of modern media: print (self-publishing zines, comics and books), video (making movies and shows), CD (creating original music) and the indie-paradise of the Internet (websites, blogs, video games). Quick and easy do-in-a-day project ideas are included, so emerging artists will feel ready to tackle more ambitious works.

Punctuated by inspiring interviews with young creators, engaging sidebars, and zine-style graphics that capture the spirit of the indie movement, The Big Book of Pop Culture is an empowering guide to original artistic expression.

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Editorial Reviews

Canadian Children's Book Centre
Starred Selection 2008
Starred Selection 2008
Starred Selection
VOYA - Robbie L. Flowers
There was something masterful about the way H. G. Wells whipped the nation into a frenzy and caused people to believe that they were actually being invaded by aliens during the broadcast of War of the Worlds. Because he skillfully used the medium of radio, people were driven to varying levels of entertainment or sheer terror. This book's purpose is to get teens to become as skillful as Wells was in creating their own brand of popular culture. The material takes the reader from a basic working definition of pop culture to describing the means of generating their own via blogging, creating games, writing zines, producing pirate radio, and working in other mediums. This title offers the reader a thorough dissection of pop culture. It also provides a host of suggestions for further reading on the topic. At times though, the discussion seems repetitive as the author carries some topics from chapter to chapter. Either more information could have been packed into those spots or the repeated material could have simply been deleted. Humorous black-and-white illustrations abound throughout the text. They assist in keeping the reader interested in the subject matter. The book is recommended for public libraries that have a teen population that is into creative expression. It would serve as a manual of information and suggestions for teens trying to figure out how to take their self-expression to the next level. It can be viewed as an optional purchase for other libraries.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781554510566
  • Publisher: Annick Press, Limited
  • Publication date: 4/13/2007
  • Pages: 183
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Hal Niedzviecki is an award-winning writer of novels, non-fiction, newspaper columns, and magazine articles. He is also the co-founder of Broken Pencil, a magazine of zine culture and the independent arts. He lives in Toronto.

Marc Ngui is a Toronto cartoonist and illustrator who also creates storyboards and animation for advertising.

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Table of Contents


No One Understands Me Even Though I'm the Only One in the Whole World Who Has a Clue, and Other Thoughts on Your Exceptional Creativity

Using this Book

Part One: Everything You Need to Know Before You Make Your Own Pop Culture

  1. I Know It When I see It: Pop's Past, Present, and Future
  2. Attack of the Blob! Pop Culture Everywhere
  3. Your Global Neighborhood Needs You: Creating DIY Pop Culture

Part Two: From Acting to Zines: the A-Zs of Making Your Own Pop culture

  1. Starting the Presses: Zines, Comics, Books
  2. Moving the Picture: Making Your own Cheap, Wonderful, and Probably Pretty Weird Movies, Shows, and
  3. Pop Music's Not Dead: It Just needs a (DIY) Revolution
  4. Shocking the System: Radio, TV, the Web

Image credits
About the Author

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No One Understands Me Even Though I'm the Only One in the Whole World Who Has a Clue, and Other Thoughts on Your Exceptional Creativity

Ever feel like you just don't care? I mean, you're watching tv or flipping through a magazine and you realize that you really don't care: about what celebrities are wearing, or how many cylinders this year's sports car has, or what grisly crime is going to be solved by a bunch of hunky detectives in designer outfits.

Sometimes it seems as if there's this whole world of pop culture that tells you what to care about but has nothing whatsoever to do with your life.

At the same time, we're constantly told that we should be original and creative and fantastic. But how did being original and fantastic come to mean talking about stuff that we don't care about and pretending to solve outlandish crimes while keeping our hair perfectly gelled? What's so great about that?

Pop culture bombards us with stories, songs, shows, movies, and products that tell us to be ourselves and tap into our creativity and talent. But when we are creative and original, we find out that no one is interested unless we're doing the same stuff as everyone else. Unless you're trying out for the latest reality tv singing show, no one wants you on tv. Unless you're some wild and wacky character with an amazing gimmick, you don't get any attention. But what if you don't want to be totally brand new and ultracool and original? What if you just want to be you?

Creativity is often confused with originality. But when you create, the challenge isn't to think of something no one has ever done before; it's to figure out what you want to say and why you want to say it. Creativity is about discovering who you are, including how much like other people you are.

This is a book about creating a space where you get to say what you care about. This is a book about using pop culture to communicate how you see the world and how you want the world to see you. You'll learn how to use pop culture to create your own tv shows, magazines, websites, songs- whatever you want.

A lot of people seem to think that just being who they are isn't interesting enough. But you have the right to be normal, you have the right to make mistakes, and you have the right to not want to be a superstar. And most important of all, you have the right to create your own pop culture your way, for yourself. Even if no one ever hears our songs, reads our zines, or watches our movies, expressing ourselves just because we feel like it is something we all have the right to do.

So what are you going to do? I started my own magazine in 1995. I called it Broken Pencil and it's still publishing today. The magazine is all about how much I love independent pop culture -- zines, blogs, movies, music, websites, and more. When I started the magazine, I had only the slightest idea about how many people were doing creative things and wanted to share them. Now, people I've worked on the magazine with are some of my best friends. And I've met creators from all over the world who produce amazing comics, video games, music, and zines -- stuff I'd never have known about if I hadn't decided to just go ahead and do something.

What I did wasn't all that amazing, or even original. But it was what I wanted to do. Because it meant a lot to me, I worked hard at it and kept it going, and eventually it started to mean something to other people too. Not because I'm such an original genius, but because we need, in our world, more places where people can be creative -- where we can express ourselves-without feeling all kinds of pressure.

So this book is part of what I started years ago, when I wasn't that much older than you are now. And even after all those years, I still need to be reminded that pop culture isn't just a way to talk about the rich and famous. There's another kind of pop culture out there -- the kind I started my magazine to celebrate. It's a pop culture that lets you share your stories and ideas with people all over the world. Not that anyone cares. But then again, you never know.

Using this Book

The Big Book of Pop Culture is divided into two parts. The first part contains thoughts and ideas about how pop culture works and why you should make your own. This section is best read in order, but feel free to skip ahead if you already know the difference between culture jamming, do-it-yourself, underground, and plunder. In fact, if you know all that stuff, I should be reading your book!

The second part of this book is about starting pop culture projects, including topics like publishing your own magazine, putting out your own cd of songs, or running your own radio station. This section doesn't have to be read in order; just flip through and stop whenever you see something that interests you.

Pop culture-making it, understanding it, thinking about its effect on our lives-is a huge topic. This book can't tell you everything you need to know, which is why each chapter ends with bits and pieces meant to help you keep going on your own. So, to encourage what the schools like to call "self-directed learning," all chapters of the book have the following:

Further Reading: Pretty obvious. Books or web-sites to check out that will take you deeper into the ideas discussed in the chapter. Some of these book aren't written for teens (of course, you can and should read them anyway), so you might want to bring your dictionary to help with words like phonograph and post-rock. For the less adventurous, books written specifically for young adults will have a star (*) next to them.

Do It Yourself: Projects you can do in a half day or so. These simple, fun tasks are meant to help you discover how you can harness the power of pop culture to explore what you and your community are really about (other than a mall, fast-food restaurants, and big box stores that sell 300 rolls of toilet paper in one giant pack). These suggested activities come with a promise: you'll have fun and learn all kinds of cool things. Anyway, don't take my word for it: do it yourself.

Keyword Search: Things happen so fast in pop culture. By the time you get around to reading this book, a new trend will have started that I didn't even know about yet. So, to stay on top of the latest developments in making your own blog or recording your band's music, it's a good idea to look for up-to-the-minute information by doing web searches on sites like Creative Commons or Google. Start with the suggested keywords provided and then move on to other words and phrases that, horrors, you'll have to think up all by yourself.

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