Sunday, August 18, 2019

My first website attempt

What you are reading here is not "my website", but a spot in the great googlesphere. Way, way, way back in the dawn of personal websites, before we expressed ourselves on corporate platforms, I attempted to make my own corner of the internet.

Unfortunately, I could never figure out the file transfer side of website development. I had no training or instruction and didn't know where to look, so this HTML file was never uploaded anywhere, but I did create it. It did have a background and graphics, although I think those files have been lost to time.

Nevertheless, the screen capture below is my first ever website. Yes, it is misogynistic with talk of "hot chicks" and other banter you would expect from a 20-year old male in an all-male military unit in the late 1990s. But you can see the dawn of my creativity. This is also evidence that at some point I wanted to be President of the United States or be on the Jerry Springer Show.

Glad I outgrew some of those ideas.

Hard to believe this is 22 years old.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Writing Advice From Leonard Pitts



When I was in college, and just starting to understand how to write, I emailed columnist Leonard Pitts in response to an article he wrote about the mother of Emmitt Till, a young black man whose death was a key point in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. I thought Pitts's article was so well done I had to ask him how I could write like that and how maybe one day I could have my own general interest column. Although I think his assistant sent a canned response, Mr. Pitts's advice was some of the best I ever received - actually, it may have been the only advice I ever received on the art of writing. Anyway, here is what he wrote:
As for advice...practice your craft.  Then practice it some more.  After you're done with that, take a little more time and practice. This is the only sure route to learning your craft.  There is, in other words, no trick, secret, or magic formula that will make you good.  Unfortunately for them, most writers are very good at finding excuses not to write.  This is because writing is not enjoyable.  As some sage once put it: "Writing is not fun.  Having written is." So what is required of the would-be writer is that he or she first develop the discipline to apply the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair and start putting words down on the screen.  You will be awful at first, then a little better.  In time, perhaps, you will become good.  And sometime after that, assuming you possess the basic gifts for it, you will become great. Time not spent writing should be spent reading.  Read constantly and promiscuously.  Read writers whose work you admire and try to figure out how they do what they do and what it is in their work that makes it achieve whatever effect it does.  Read writers whose work you dislike and try to figure out what they're doing wrong so that you can avoid making the same mistakes. Also: It's important to invest in the tools of your craft.  In making an investment, you prove - to others and, more importantly, to yourself - that you are serious about this thing.  To that end, you need a workspace - doesn't have to be fancy, but it ought to be yours and accessible to you on a regular basis.  You need a word processor or computer; a good dictionary, an almanac, a copy of Strunk and White's Elements of Style, and a thesaurus. You need a copy of Writer's Market, which is a directory of magazine publishers.  It lists the kind of material they're looking for, the contact persons and the prices they pay.  Also, get yourself a subscription to Writer's Digest; it's a monthly magazine that deals with the craft of writing, but also the business of it.  The magazine provides a great crash course for young writers. Finally, assuming you have any cash left over, you might want to pick up a copy of Stephen King's On Writing.  It's a memoir of the craft that I found inspirational and instructive.
I still haven't picked up that Stephen King book yet. I might want to do that.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Facing the Force of Angry Star Wars Fans



Last June, I wrote an article on Medium.com about Star Wars fans who make money creating videos expressing their anger at Disney diversifying the Star Wars Universe. I commented on the phenomenon, took their arguments and countered them, dissecting one particular creator's opinions, and finally extrapolated how he sees the world to include attacking his misunderstanding of hip-hop culture.

Last week, the online group "The Fandom Menace" found my article. They circulated it on social media and huffed and puffed their viewpoints without responding directly to what I wrote.

They did what they do - they pushed their views, got their likes, and shared their opinion with their followers. That is their community and the issues they choose to bond over. More power to them.

But I was curious how my article was found. The first account to mention me was an anti-Rian Johnson account.



But how did he find it a year after it was published? It had over 1,000 reads on Medium.com, but that's not a lot. The picture I created for the article is one of the top images when if you google the creator's name - that could be how it was discovered.

Interestingly, the article was also circulated on twitter by a bot with 0 followers, 1 following and 40 tweets between June 29th and August 3rd. My article was mentioned in 8 of the account's 40 tweets, many of which were replies to discussions.




I don't even promote myself as much as this bot promoted me.

According to Medium.com's internal analytics, my article was read over 40 times on that one day. That was significantly more than the 5-10 daily reads the article was averaging since its publication over a year ago.

I guess that's the life of a writer - you never know when your work will instigate discussion.

As far as the social media debate the "Fandom Menace" tried to drag me into, that ended when I told them I wasn't interested in engaging on twitter. I posted a screenshot of an email I sent to the video creator alerting him when I published my article. The creator never replied. Email conversations don't make ad money.



Monday, July 15, 2019

Did Braun Strowman comment on my blog?



Many years ago, when this blog started, I wrote a lot about sports. But I didn't write what other people wrote about. I tried to find the most obscure angles to current sports stories.

One obscure angle I took in July 2007 was to compare then-baseball star Barry Bonds to home run leaders in other leagues such as the Japanese League, the Negro Leagues, and American softball leagues. Entitled "Barry Bonds has a long way to go", it was a fun post that got a few comments and if memory serves me well, was linked on Deadspin.com, which was a big deal back then for independent blogs with small audiences.

(Btw, it turns out, Bonds's 762 home runs fell far short of these historic sluggers.)

One of the softball home run legends I profiled was Rick "The Crusher" Scherr. I wrote about Scherr's amazing ability to crush softballs and his over 4,000 home runs.


Typical of internet snarkiness, one of the commentors on my blog post didn't believe someone could hit so many home runs, even in softball. The commentor claimed I made up some of the names.

Following that comment were people vouching for the softball legends, including this comment:



For years, I didn't think anything of that particular comment as family members, fans, and former teammates all commented on the validity of the softball sluggers.

Recently, however, I discovered that Rick Scherr has a very famous son. The given name of WWE Superstar Braun Strowman is Adam Scherr. After a bit of research, I discovered Rick Scherr had two children, Adam and his younger sister Hannah.

If my Anonymous commenter is indeed a Scherr family member (there is always the possibility it is not), in 2007, Adam would have been 24 years old and Hannah would have been 20. According to wikipedia, in 2007, Adam Scherr was working as a mechanic and doorman and playing semi-pro football. Rick Scherr's awards could have been hanging in either of the siblings' own houses or in the family house - the "my" not being indicative of a separate house.

Although it is possible the comment was written by Hannah Scherr, I like to think it was written by a bored Adam, years away from wrestling greatness, spending his day reading sports websites, wondering where his life is going, and defending his father's legacy on a small random blog.

While many wrestlers can attest to "getting those hands", how many blogs can say they "got these words"?

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Jon Stewart and Leadership on Display in Tampa



Recently I had the pleasure of meeting comic legend Jon Stewart. He was in town supporting the 2019 Warrior Games, a series of athletic events involving wounded military members from the US and several other countries. He has supported the Warrior Games as spokesperson for several years.

I noticed a few things about Jon Stewart while he was here in Tampa. One, I didn't realize how short he was. I am 6'1 and he was quite shorter than I am. I thought he would be taller.

But more importantly, I realized firsthand how Jon Stewart worked with people. Throughout the ceremonies and at the events, I never once saw one of the most famous comedians in America put himself first. He was an amplifier and cheerleader of the real attractions of the event: the disabled veteran athletes of the US Armed Forces.

At the Opening Ceremonies, Stewart served as an MC, handing the floor to Generals, the teams, and local politicians who spoke about the event. The famous comedian was just there to facilitate.

At the Closing Ceremonies, Stewart even went so far to step to the rear-most part of the stage while the athletes were getting their awards. Although he brought attention to the athletes and to his other efforts with the 9/11 responders, he wanted little credit himself.

Then I realized stepping aside is a common trait for Jon Stewart. On The Daily Show, Stewart served as MC, letting his correspondents report and his guests tell their story. Although he got his jokes in, Stewart was the pilot as he was at the Warrior Games.

Of course, The Daily Show prospered under Stewart's stewardship. But it also spawned several other shows and careers, to include Stephen Colbert, Steve Carrell, Samantha Bee, Ed Helms, and John Oliver. Jon Stewart let those careers grow under his watch.

Other writers have noticed Jon Stewart's positive leadership. In this Inc. article, they listed 5 leadership traits that Stewart displayed at The Daily Show.

  • Work harder than everyone else.
  • Surround yourself with better people.
  • Demonstrate humble intelligence and polite sincerity.
  • Learn to ask questions and listen.
  • Find your daily “Moment of Zen.”

Likewise, a recent Forbes article pointed out Stewart's ability to challenge the status quo, inspire collaboration, and inspire purpose. Business Insider called Stewart a "superboss" because of his ability to promote other's careers.

I wonder how many of these leadership traits were learned and how many came naturally to Jon Stewart. Where did he learn the confidence to put others first? Was it learned in improv, where you are only as good as your partner on stage? Did he have a mentor? Was these traits learned as the leader of The Daily Show? Or was it something Jon brought to comedy from an earlier age?

However he learned it, I would buy a book on leadership by Jon Stewart. 

Monday, June 24, 2019

Jon Stewart looks for the Warrior Games Torch in Tampa

The 2019 Warrior Games is being held in Tampa, Florida this week. The Warrior Games is a competition involving wounded military members of the US Armed Forces and several other national militaries, to include the Brits, Canadians, Australians, and more.

Like other international Olympic games, the Warrior Games begins with a torch lightning ceremony. But unfortunately, before the event could begin in Tampa, the torch was missing. Special Operations Command - the US Military's elite forces - had to call in the only man with the skill to find the torch and bring it home:

Jon Stewart

Stewart and his team of local celebrities, Mayor Jane Castor, WWE Superstar Titus O'Neil, Warrior Games athlete SSG Lauren Montoya, and City Councilman Luis Viera hunted throughout Tampa for the torch.

While on his hunt for the torch, Titus O'Neil boarded a Tampa trolley. Meanwhile, I was minding my business, riding the trolley, wondering what I was going to eat for lunch. Suddenly, I was approached by the hulking WWE superstar who thought I was hiding something.

I was petrified. I had to swear I didn't have the torch. Luckily, soon after, they found the perps - Thunderbug, mascot of the Tampa Bay Lightning, and former mayor Bob Buckhorn.





Friday, June 14, 2019

Yoga moms stealing Hip-Hop Culture



I have been a Hip-Hop fan since the early 1990s. I remember being into MC Hammer and the Fresh Price in middle school which led to liking LL Cool J and Public Enemy in junior high. By high school, I was engulfed in Hip-Hop, collecting everything I could of Wu-Tang, Nas, 2Pac, Redman, and Ice Cube. I traded tapes, borrowed CD's, and recorded radio shows.

But as a white middle class kid in the Florida suburbs, I was detached from the core of hip-hop. Even though the content of hip-hop spoke to me - the idea of getting out of your current struggle and making life better - hip-hop was never really mine. I could enjoy it, I could talk about it, and I could be as big of a fan as possible, but I could never be truly of the culture.

As I grew as a Hip-Hop fan, I started participating in the culture. I wrote freelance articles on local artists, I posted youtube videos of local concerts, and I even got to interview legends. Meanwhile, I grew frustrated with those appropriating the culture. People who looked like me from my upbringing in White America claiming Hip-Hop for their own and never acknowledging the roots of the music or giving back in any way.

Hip-Hop, while being open to all cultures and people, is protective of its cultural roots, possibly because Black culture saw what happened to the Blues and Jazz. But Hip-Hop can't protect against all those who rock the music but miss the message.

White Hip-Hop fans need to call out people who look like them who are disrespecting Hip-Hop.

My least favorite offenders of Hip-Hop appropriation are white middle aged women, typical "yoga moms". Yoga moms are as far removed from the struggle of Hip-Hop culture as possible. Many have come from comfortable middle class upbringings, went to predominantly white colleges, and live in predominantly white suburbs. Yet they have claimed parts of Hip-Hop for their own without adding anything to the culture.

For example, the "Pour some coffee, put your hair in a bun, put on some gangsta rap, and deal with it" phrase is appropriation at best, exploitation at worst. Gangsta rap is not for Starbucks drinking, minivan driving, soccer moms. Etsy stores selling gangsta rap slogans should be called out and chastised.

I though nothing could be worse. Then I saw a predominantly white yoga studio poll its instagram followers whether they should hang up a portrait of deceased Hip-Hop and R&B legends.

No. No. No. No. No.

That's not yours. You shouldn't have that and you shouldn't hang it up. And leave Hip-Hop culture alone.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

The Serious Tip AfroSquad Commercial

With the relaunch of this website, I thought it only fitting to dust off a old commercial for this site filmed by the AfroSquad.



There is still no stock market information here.

Monday, May 13, 2019

The Tall Tale of Rube Bellweather




The tradition of avoiding pitchers during their throwing of a no-hitter started in the 1890s when a pitcher named Rube Bellweather of the Atlanta Confederates refused to shower while he was doing well. During a lengthy streak of success, Bellweather’s odor began to wear on his team. No one said anything, however, as he continued to pitch well and the team continued to win.

During one game, the odoriferous Bellweather was particularly effective, holding the opposing team without a hit through seven innings. As it was a typical Atlanta day, with the temperature well over 90 degrees and a stifling humidity caressing the air, Bellweather’s body odor was too much to bear for his teammates. When in the dugout they purposefully avoided him, staying to one side or even leaping the barriers and sitting with the fans to watch their teammates at bat.

Unfortunately for Bellweather’s teammates, they had trouble of their own at the plate as the opposing pitcher also held them hitless through eight innings. After a scoreless and hitless ninth, tenth, and then eleventh innings, and a growing gross aroma permeating from Bellweather, his team decided to take matters into their own hands. In the bottom of the twelfth inning, Bellweather’s teammates pulled a defensive mutiny on the pitcher, dropping fly balls, kicking ground balls, and throwing the ball all over the field until three runs scored.

But the bottom of the twelfth brought positive tidings for the hometown nine. After quickly getting two outs, the opposing hurler hit the next two Atlanta hitters and issued a walk to load the bases. Bellweather himself strode to the plate with an odor so raunchy neither the umpire nor the opposing catcher could look in the direction of either the pitcher on the mound or the pitcher at the plate. Fortunately, they needn’t hold their breath nor watch the action for long. Bellweather swung at the first offering and hit the ball far beyond the outfield field fence for a game winning grand slam. In honor of Bellweather’s heroics and his teammates’ poor actions, the tradition of avoiding a pitcher while he is throwing a no-hitter continued.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Detained by Stormtroopers in Clearwater, Florida


I recently acquired Jedi robes. I bought them from an ancient dealer of fine attire in the cyberspace realm of the Amazon. They have served me well. Although not a Jedi, I do consider myself strong with the Force. Due to the cost of the Jedi Academy, I could never afford to be properly trained in the art of the Jedi. And now I am too old to begin my training. But wearing the robes of the Jedi is to me akin to wearing the sports jersey of my favorite team. I am showing my support to the cause.

So it was apropos that I wear my Jedi garb to Star Wars Night at the Clearwater Threshers baseball game. It was a fun night at the ballpark, good food, good people, and a great fireworks show.

Until I was detained. Apparently, Clearwater is under the rule of the Empire and had the 501st Legion patrolling the premises, looking for Jedi. Luckily, they let me go. I may or may not have used an amateur Jedi mind trick on them.

I'm glad I didn't bring the lightsaber I acquired on the moon of Ord Mantell.