Being Eolake Stobblehouse
By Gail Worley
The Internet is a wonderful thing. As a writer, I take full advantage of Internet resources many, many times each day; for everything from email communications with my editors, to fact checking articles I'm writing and online research for upcoming interviews. Honestly, I couldn't do my job without online access, but perhaps the truly astonishing gift of the World Wide Web is its unprecedented ability to facilitate interpersonal connections and bring into your life people whom you would otherwise never, ever meet through normal channels -- whatever 'normal' means.
It's been more than three years since an interview I conducted with Nivek Ogre, the charismatic front man from industrial rock pioneers, Skinny Puppy, was published on a now defunct Internet music website. The popularity of this article prompted the delivery of a flood of enthusiastic fan mail to my email in-box from all over the globe. One such note came from an artist in Denmark who called himself Eolake Stobblehouse. As I am in the habit of collecting friends with unusual names (whether they be given or adopted), a few brief email exchanges ensued between this curiously named gentleman and me. The result: Eolake and I became friends. Though our friendship exists entirely in the realm of what we now call cyberspace -- we have never actually met face to face -- he's proven to be both a fascinating acquaintance, and someone I consider a true friend.
Unique as he is in so many ways, Eolake is also the rare individual who is actually able to earn a good living off his talents as an Internet entrepreneur and web designer. All the better for him then that each of his websites -- WhatMeArtist.com, MacCreator.com and DOMAI.com, as well as his blog and his site for personal art, stobblehouse.com, -- center on his personal passions for artistic expression, the innovative world of Macintosh computer technology, and the elusive pursuit of beauty. If you've happened upon any of his work, you may be asking, "Who is this Eolake Stobblehouse, the guy behind the cool websites? What motivates him creatively? And how did he get that wacky name?"
Please allow me to give you the lowdown on all of that and more, from a recent conversation with the man himself.
What's In a Name?
Eolake says: "In the late eighties, I had recently met one of my good friends, a musician and composer, who used to be in the punk rock scene. He has a pseudonym, and one day while visiting him at work, I heard his friends and colleagues calling him by that, rather than his given name. It was inspiring to me that it could be an everyday name, so I decided to create my own name, and most of my friends now call me by that. To me, it seems rather obvious that one should choose one's own name, just as one chooses one's clothes and so on."
Getting deeper into the heart of exactly who he is, Eolake will tell you this is a very challenging question, because what defines him is something he seems to be working on all the time. "I used to think of myself as first and last an ARTIST, but to my great surprise it is becoming apparent that there are areas outside of raw creativity where I can do a lot of good, like publishing and philosophy. That's nice to know, because one thing about the life of an artist, it is not easy." Here, Eolake humorously compares the inherent risk of personal creative expression to "fighting alley fights, in the nude and alone, in the dark." High sensitivity and perceptions are necessary, but at the same time one has to fight for one's visions.
Who You Callin' An Artist?
It is just such a vision quest that inspired Eolake's first online venture, WhatMeArtist. What's that about? "The purpose of WhatMeArtist is to give the basic education of aesthetics, and to jar the timid artist from the fear of creating, and into being himself," he explains matter-of-factly. "The basic message is: 'If you created it, and you think it is art, it is art,' with the implied statement, 'Fuck what anybody else thinks.' Of course one should learn to communicate also, but the world has a lot of people who are like the 'Grim Reaper' on artists," he continues. Eolake believes it's vital for artists to learn how to recognize people who inflict oppressive or negative influences on the creative process, and to avoid them.
She's a Beauty
Although it is arguably the most controversial of Eolake's web domains, the artistic, oh-so-mildly erotic photography of DOMAI.com is not meant to titillate, but, rather, is a life-affirming celebration of female beauty. "DOMAI.com is at the forefront of something new that I call 'simple nudes,' meaning nudes that are not primarily Fine Art, nor are they primarily for sexual stimulation. Instead these photographs are for showcasing the beauty of the human form." Finding photographers who can do outstanding work of this type has been a slow process, Stobblehouse offers, because there is no tradition for it. Nevertheless, he has found them. "To my great satisfaction, many of these visual artists are now doing some excellent work that would otherwise never have been done, because I have created a market for it," he says proudly.
Ironically, DOMAI is an acronym for "Dirty Old Men's Association International," a name created as a joke. "Dirty Old Men's Association International" is a spoof of the fact that some people believe there is something inherently wrong in looking at pretty girls," an attitude, Eolake confesses, that he's never understood. "I created the 'club,' and later I thought it would be fun to make a site for it, so I wrote some philosophy and invented an elaborate 'history' of the club, going back to 1938!"
Considering the site's very artistic and tasteful content, I asked him directly, "Why use the phrase "Dirty Old Men" -- which is generally considered to be derogatory -- to describe it? Might that alone give some people the wrong idea? "To a few people, it does," he answers. "That surprised me for a while, for to me it is such an obvious joke. Of course, even the best comedians can tell you that there is no joke that works on everybody. Humor is a very personal thing.
"But beyond the humor, DOMAI is quite serious about making the people realize that there is nothing wrong with looking. I really do hope to help change the world's views on this. For if we can't look at each other, and if we can't enjoy beauty, we are bad off!"
As far as negative email or complaints about DOMAI is concerned, Eolake says, "It actually happens very rarely, almost never. I get some 200 emails every day, and maybe once or twice a year I get something negative. It is seldom a coherent argument, mostly just ranting, so why even bother to respond? If people are actually offended by the very fact of nudity, that, to me is so irrational that I can find nothing to say."
Actually, in Eolake's perception, "nudity" and "pornography" have very little in common. "Of course there is an undertone of sexuality to DOMAI, but the few people who say that it is all about sex, or that it should be, are much mistaken. To me, the beauty of the female nude form is like a sun hidden by a lunar eclipse. If you try to aim for the sun, you get sucked in on the way by the moon's gravity, and many people get no further. But if you persist, and keep looking at the beauty, you get past the sexuality, and you can get an experience that to me is much greater and more powerful than a merely sexual one."
It is not surprising then that DOMAI membership includes a large faction of women, as well as many photographers and artists. "One comment I have gotten several times -- and love -- is that some women who view the site and the pictures not only love to look at the beautiful models, but the photos, and the site in general, actually make them feel more beautiful themselves. It confirms their beauty as people and as women. Also, photographers and artists are much inspired by the site, and many of them had been almost desparing of finding nice and tasteful nude images on the web, until they found DOMAI."
Meet The Mac Creator
Like many of us who now use a home computer as an integral part of our daily life, Eolake's first introduction to computers took place at an office job. "As usual," he bemoans, "they used 'Windoze' computers at that company." When the time came to get his own computer, he says, "I followed the advice that Macintosh is a good choice for creative people, and has better user-friendliness, both of which turned out to be true. It is a strange fact that a greatly disproportionate number of the interesting people I meet and know are Macintosh people. It could be that it takes a 'bohemian' gene to go against the stream, I don't know."
Eolake Stobblehouse's site MacCreator.com is a web site for people who are creative and/or who use Macintosh computers. There are articles posted on the site about creativeness that have little to do with the Mac, and Mac articles which are not specifically about creative uses. "Naturally, if you are both creative and use a Mac, you are home now," Eolake writes on the "About MacCreator" page of this fun and highly engaging site. "MacCreator.com was inspired by my love for the endless possibilities available through computers, especially when using a Mac," he says, then clarifies, "At least it is more fun with a Mac! You can make art, you can edit and print photos, you can write, you can make music, you can communicate, you can do research. It's just fantastic!"
Among the most rewarding experiences he's had since starting MacCreator are the receipt of encouraging letters from other writers that the multi-talented artist really admires. "A few have told me that they love my stuff and that I am saying something important. That, of course, is just an ego trip, but if I agree that I wrote something valid, then it is a good ego trip!"
While the man behind MacCreator does not necessarily subscribe to the common belief that Bill Gates is the Antichrist (just kidding, sort of, not really), he does suspect that Gates, though "very intelligent and very powerful," is deficient in regards to his sense of personal responsibility. He is only concerned with the dominance of Microsoft, and not at all with his responsibility in the greater scheme of things. "... I think that is very dangerous. Contrast that with Steve Jobs, who (while he probably has his own personality defects) gets his enthusiasm from creating things that he believe will make a 'Dent in the Universe' as he puts it."
For such an intellectual, tech-oriented guy, Eolake possesses a sharp sense of humor. He's a huge a fan of columnist Dave Barry, and loves TV shows like Friends and Frasier, the latter "which is 'okay' for an intellectual to like," he jokes. "Actually, it seems to me that comedy is in its golden age right now, " Eolake says. "Humor, like beauty, is a very hard thing to pin down, so this is not always obvious, but I really think the business of comedy is doing better than ever. Some brand new and exciting things are happening, like the deeply original TV series, League of Gentlemen in the UK," a British comedy which has not yet been exported to the US. As a basic part of his personal philosophy, Eolake sees comedy and humor as being very important facet of humanity. "If it were up to me, Hollywood would produce far fewer 'thrillers' and many more comedies. Laughter is a release of emotional tension, and is very healthy."
The Secret of My Success
Since the bottom has pretty much fallen out of the Internet business world, one can only wonder how Eolake Stobblehouse has achieved such personal and financial success. What's his secret for success, and does he have any advice to share?
"Firstly, the 'dot-bomb' is pretty exaggerated," he reveals. "The press loves disaster stories. We don't hear about the large number of sites and businesses doing great. Secondly, the most spectacular failures had nothing to do with the nature of the Internet, but with the stupidity of those setting them up. Or perhaps their cunning was a factor, for I notice that a lot of starters got a ton of investor money, went bankrupt and walked away millionaires. Good gig if you can get it! It is pretty dumb to just assume that if you blow 50 million on advertising, somehow you'll make money. Even on the Internet, you have to apply some sort of business sense, like for example making sure you actually have a product people are willing to pay for."
"It is hard to give universal advice, but here is an attempt:
"Do something you love. It is next to impossible to sustain interest and enthusiasm if you have to force yourself out of bed every morning.
"Study every day. In my case, I study (on the web and in books) the basics of how the Net and computers (and Macs) work, and the basics of economics and business, and art and aesthetics.
"Keep It Simple! This can't be emphasized enough. When I left my last day job in 1998, that company had already been working on a web site for a while. Two years later, I was living well off my own work --and had been for a while -- and they still did not have a web site! The boss kept adding new features and technologies and it took years to get off the ground. In contrast, all my sites use only technologies are at least five years old, and have very simple design. Of course, 'keep it simple' is good advice in almost anything."
"Prioritize heavily. When you find yourself spending hours on some detail and getting frustrated, ask yourself 'Is this really important?' Then train yourself to ask that question before you have wasted hours!
"My own success with DOMAI.com came partly from luck. The site was never meant to be commercial; it was meant to be funny and fun, to teach people that it is not evil to look at girls, and to have a few pretty pictures. A friend convinced me to sell memberships, and it turned out there was a dire need for a web site that cared about quality and beauty, and also for a site that showed pretty girls without getting gynecological about it. It is actually not that easy a balance to maintain, and I guess that is why DOMAI.com still pretty much dominates that niche market. I have written a letter to Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the WWW, and thanked him for making my life a lot more fun, and giving me the opportunity of making a good living from my hobby."
A Few Parting Words
"I think beauty is simultaneously the most slippery, ephemeral, and important subject there is. Very powerful, and very difficult to pin down. To me, beauty is spiritual. I notice that very rigid-thinking people tend to believe that beauty is either a 'luxury' or that it can't be defined and therefore we shouldn't attempt to do so. I believe that beauty can be defined and understood, and that understanding will only make it powerful. And actually that is one of my major goals in this lifetime."
The author of this article, Gail Worley is a New York City-based Freelance writer and Rock Critic. A native of Southern California, Gail moved to New York in 1988. Gail loves to Rock. She is the author of several syndicated monthly music columns and contributes regularly to Modern Drummer, Rockpile, Mean Street, Discoveries and ReQuest magazines as well as websites like Rollingstone.com, Ink19.com and Starpolish.com. Her work has been published by Allstarnews/CD Now, Amazon.com, DrDrew.com, Metal Hammer England, KNAC.com, Sonicnet, Launch.com and numerous websites and regional publications.
Gail Worley is a double Aquarius who balances her Rock & Roll hipster cache with her more metaphysical side. She is a Reiki Master practitioner whose clients include many local area rock musicians. Gail's favorite songs are "All the Young Dudes" by Mott the Hoople, "Shake Some Action" by the Flamin' Groovies and "I'm Not In Love" by 10CC.
Visit her site at Worleygig.com