Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Deadspin is Dead Long Live Bloggers

For all intents and purposes, Deadspin.com died earlier this month. After corporate orders restricting content to only sports, the site's writers and editors walked out in protest.

Since 2005, Deadspin.com was a bastion for against the grain views. When the mainstream media, especially sports media, was grasping with how to handle their growing online audience, Deadspin was at the forefront of the sports blog "revolution". Bloggers were influencing how the online audience thought, and their views were vastly different from the TV-viewing audience.

Many sports blogs wrote from a fan-based perspective not seen in the "ivory tower" of established journalism. To the internet-savvy fan, newspapers were a relic of a slower past. This infuriated more traditional media representatives such as Bob Costas and Buzz Bissinger.

Check out this video of Bob Costas's interview with Deadspin founder Will Leitch in 2008. Costas begins by calling the blogosphere the "wild west of the internet" where "anyone can post anything".



(The best part is Costas decrying the "potshots and mean spirited abuse" abundant online. As more people got online and as the internet became more of our daily lives and media went from easy to "social", the mean spiritedness only got worse. If only we had to worry about a few sarcastic comment sections. But that's a social commentary for another day. Maybe another blog post.)

Simply put, the breaking of the publishing barriers and the ease of blogging allowed readers to read, learn, or laugh about sports in ways that circumvented traditional media. Blogs and stat sites were the underground. Blogging was a cool kids club similar to hackers or other online groups that the mainstream didn't understand.

During the time of Deadspin's rise, I wrote frequently on this site and my work and my words were quoted on Deadspin a few times.

In September 2008, for example, then-editor Rick Chandler and I had a small back-and-forth when Chandler insulted the Tampa Bay Rays. First, Chandler posted a letter I wrote to the editor on his post entitled "Mock The Mohawk At Your Own Peril":
On Tuesday, I received this email: Rick I always thought Deadspin was the place for the underdog. I don't know your sports affiliations, but you definitely came off as siding with the Red Sox in your post on last night's Rays vs. Red Sox game, particularly your shot at the Rays attendance (the majority were of course pro-Red Sox). I'll be at tonight's game and I'll definitely be able to determine if the majority of fans are pro-Rays, as they normally are, or pro-Boston. If you are there too, please let me know. I'll say hi. You know, I never thought Deadspin would be pro-Evil Empire; I thought that was ESPN's job. Things definitely have changed since Will Leitch left. Jordi Scrubbings
That night, I wrote a post documenting different types of Rays fans, which Chandler then quoted the next day on Deadspin.
Secondly, there was a sellout crowd of 36,048. And as my pal Jordi Scrubbings points out, most, evidently, were Rays fans. Scrubbings has taken me to task for claiming that Rays fans are uninspired and rarely present, so he took the time to document his claims to the contrary. Included in his thesis is this example of the Rays Mohawk:
You had to roll with the punches. If you had a sense of humor, the blogosphere was fun.

I also wrote a post for Deadspin in 2009. I was picked to preview Florida State basketball in the NCAA Tournament. I had to send them a sample of my writing and in return, they provided me with a bit of exposure.

Besides being quoted and writing for Deadspin, writing about Deadspin was also a thing. Yes, it was naval gazing, but many sports bloggers knew they were part of something new. Again, it was similar to the early hackers who knew the internet was going to be big and they were on the cusp of a movement. Sports bloggers knew there were going to be changes to how people ingested their sports. We knew something was happening at the crossroads of technology and media.

(Unfortunately, like the early hackers, early bloggers couldn't control what happened to online sports media, they could only write about it. But that too is a possible post for another day.)

My favorite naval gazing post was written when original editor Will Leitch left Deadspin in 2008. This post entitled "Hey, Wait, I'm Blogging Sports Complaints" used Leitch's love for Nirvana as a basis for discussing the blogging "revolution".

Ironically, at the end of the article, I attempted to predict the future of Deadspin.
"Will the mantra Leitch promoted be marginalized by the very consumerist machine that sparked its conception?"
Although editors who followed Leitch continued his philosophy of speaking truth to power, the inside powers that be - venture capitalists who eventually purchased Deadspin as part of an online journalism conglomerate - killed the site.

Admittedly, I haven't been a regular reader of Deadspin for several years. I have no idea how much of their posts were sports versus partly sports versus completely non-sports. But that is not the point. The point is that a website that was once the pinnacle of the underground was eventually forced to lose its voice.

While I am disappointed Deadspin is dead, I do not share in the thought that all is lost. Writers will still write. Writers who were previously employed by Deadspin will surface again. They will continue to put words on screens and click publish buttons. Before the days of Deadspin and other corporate forums, many writers were underground. If need be, the former voices of Deadspin will publish underground again - be it on sites such as wordpress or blogspot, or on their own websites.

And when the former voices of Deadspin do write again, they have the power of social media (particularly twitter) to market their works. That built-in audience is an advantage that the early blogosphere did not have.

Unfortunately, independent blogging rarely pays. This is why so many writers flocked to corporate owned platforms over the past 10 years. Perhaps many of the former Deadspin writers will find paid gigs - if so, more power to them. I fear some will not.

But if I could make one media suggestion before I conclude this ode, it is that the internet needs better aggregation sites. We need sites that list the best writing from independent writers and bloggers and lets readers discover new voices. In the early blogging days, sites such as Deadspin, The Big Lead, and others always had a "link dump" of the best articles they found that week. For a small, independent blogger having an article listed on a major site meant hundreds, if not thousands of new views to your work.

Unfortunately, aggregation posts don't get many ad clicks and page views. Few people share aggregation posts - they more likely share the articles the aggregation posts link to. Aggregation posts have to either be vanity pages or they have to be on sites such as Reddit.

In conclusion, this has become quite the long ode. But this is my site and no venture capitalist is going to tell me to wrap it up.

Long live Deadspin - a site that helped me not only gain exposure and confidence in my writing but also taught me about blogging to power - something I have done often on my Tampa Bay Baseball Market website. There, I don't have access, favor, or discretion and sure enough, several of Tampa's mainstream sports writers don't like my voice or opinions. Oh well.

Hard to believe I have been writing online for over 13 years. The writing world is a lot different these days. But even though time passes, and we know lives and businesses come and go, it is still sad to see the home of a revolution strangled by the hands of corporate greed.

RIP Deadspin.

Affirmed.


Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Before there was AfroSquad there was ANUS



Agent Jordi Scrubbings of the AfroSquad formerly worked with an organization called the Alien Neutralizing Underground Society (ANUS) - not to be confused with the AfroSquad News Underground Syndicate (ANUS). ANUS's mission was to protect the universe against intergalatic threats, such as the Hartoonians and the Head Alien (please see the movie Flash Vs The Aliens for more on that earth-saving conflict).

In 2002, Agent Scrubbings was instructed to inform the worldwide media on the status of ANUS following massive US Government restructuring efforts in 2001. There were rumors and speculation that ANUS would join Homeland Security or one of the Intelligence Agencies, possibly the Agency for Superterrestrial Suppression (ASS) or the Bureau of Undisclosed Terrestrial Terror (BUTT). This memo, recently rediscovered squashed the rumors, stifled the innuendos, and stopped the prognostication.



Monday, September 23, 2019

Finding my bologna poem part 2

Over a year ago I wrote about finding one of my more creative poems in different, unexpected places throughout the internet.

I found the poem, entitled "A Forgiveness Poem to Bologna", on poetry lesson websites, on a text lesson website, and on deviant.com where someone actually tried to claim it was theirs.

This week, I found my bologna poem on yet another website.


If this is my legacy, so be it.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Blocked by Jim Breuer



A few years ago, I replied to a tweet by comedian Amy Schumer. Schumer must not have liked my reply and she blocked me. I wrote about the incident here.

I always thought that was strange. I don't engage with celebrities very often, so to get that harsh of a response from someone for what I thought was a benign comment was odd. But that's how she rolls, I guess.

Recently I had another twitter incident with another famous comic. One I have seen live a few times and admire his roles in movies and other media.

But alas, I've been blocked by Jim Breuer.

It all started a few weeks ago when I read an article on UltimateClassicRock.com entitled "Are Opening Acts a Thing of the Past?". The article details how Metallica is no longer touring with an opening act, instead opting to have Breuer, a longtime fan, act as MC to get the crowd warmed up.

The logic of the move to eliminate the opening act is that according to promoters, few fans are there to see the openers, so it is best to skip the formalities and jump right into Metallica. Which I can attest is a stupid idea. In 1999, I saw Sevendust, Creed, and Kid Rock open for Metallica in front of 75,000 fans at the Orange Bowl in Miami, and although each band was relatively new, they all kicked ass prior to the headliner.

But oddly, Breuer agrees with Metallica's new touring philosophy. He states the following:


From a comedian, I found this to be out of touch. Opening acts are part of the show, both in comedy and rock. I have seen Jim Breuer do stand-up a few times. Every time, there was an opening act.

So I tweeted my disagreement with Breuer's stance.


Breuer must have seen the tweet and not liked my opinion of his opinion as he replied:


Pretty sure Breuer didn't read the article before replying and telling me to take a nap. Which is unfortunate, because then we might have had an intelligent discourse on opening acts and modern tours. Maybe I am reading his comments the wrong way. But alas, Breuer was quick with block button, forbidding me from ever seeing his tweets again.


But I think there is another force at play here. I don't think Breuer was quick with the block because he was being a jerk, although that is a possibility. I think his emotions were running high on another target and I was collateral damage.

Jim Breuer is a huge Mets fan and the Mets were not having a good night.


Sometimes the Mets bring out the worst in people.

The next time Breuer comes to Tampa, I will buy a ticket. I am still a fan and I hold no ill will. I think think he is a funny dude. But I will print out the tweet calling me the "great critic of jerk patrol" and ask if he will autograph it. Maybe I will even make and wear a t-shirt that says "great critic of jerk patrol" and ask for a picture with Breuer.

You can't take life or twitter seriously.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Star Wars Political 9/11 Parody



Here is a Star Wars-related political parody I wrote a few months following the terrorist attacks 9/11/2001. This would be great to see in parody video, maybe even deepfake. Unfortunately, I am much more of a writer than a video creator.

A SHORT TIME AGO IN AN ISLAMIC COUNTRY FAR AWAY….

We see the negotiating team of Bill and Hillary Clinton as they venture deep into the Al-Qaeda territory of Afghanistan, seeking the peaceful handing over of Usama Bin Laden. As the couple reaches the audience of the Taliban Rulers, they play a hologram message sent by President George W. Bush for the leaders of the Taliban government.

PRESIDENT BUSH
Greetings, Exalted Ones. Allow me to introduce myself. I am George W. Bush, President of the United States. I know that you are powerful, mighty Taliban, and that your compassion for Bin Laden must be equally powerful. I seek an audience with Your Greatness to bargain for Bin Laden's life. With your wisdom, I'm sure that we can work out an arrangement, which will be mutually beneficial and enable us to avoid any unpleasant confrontation. As a token of my goodwill, I present to you a gift: these two negotiators.

Hillary is startled by this announcement.

HILLARY
What did he say?

PRESIDENT BUSH (cont)
... Neither is hardworking but will serve you well.

HILLARY
This can't be! Bill, you're playing the wrong message.

President Bush's hologram disappears.

The Taliban rulers laugh.

THE TALIBAN RULER
There will be no bargain.

HILLARY
We're doomed.

THE TALIBAN RULER
I will not give up my favorite guest. I like Usama Bin Laden where he is.

The Taliban Ruler laughs hideously.

Several of the Taliban soldiers march Bill and Hillary down a dank, shadowy passageway lined with holding cells. The cries of unspeakable hostages bounce off the cold, stone walls.
Occasionally a repulsive arm grabs through the bars at the hapless negotiators. Bill whines pitifully.

HILLARY
What could possibly have come over President Bush? Is it something I did? He never expressed any unhappiness with my work. Oh! Oh! Hold it! Ohh!

A large arm wraps around Hillary's neck. She manages to break free, and they move on to a door at the end of the corridor.

MANY DAYS LATER, AT THE TALIBAN CAPITAL OF KABUL….

Noisily, the main gate opens to flood the blackness with blinding light and reveal the silhouetted figure of PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH. He is clad in a robe similar to his father's and wears neither pistol nor sword. President Bush strides purposefully into the hallway. Two giant guards move to block his path. President Bush halts.

President Bush raises his hand and points at the puzzled guards, who immediately lower their spears and fall back. The young President lowers his hand and moves down the hallway.

Saddam Hussein appears out of the gloom. He speaks to President Bush as they approach each other, but President Bush doesn't stop and Saddam must reverse his direction and hurry alongside the young president in order to carry on the conversation. Several other guards fall in behind them in the darkness.

PRESIDENT BUSH
I must speak with the Taliban.

Saddam answers in Arabic, shaking his head in denial. President Bush stops and stares at Saddam; he raises his hand slightly.

PRESIDENT BUSH
You will take me to the Taliban now.

Saddam turns in hypnotic response to President Bush's command, and the president follows him into the gloom.

PRESIDENT BUSH
You serve your allies well. And you will be rewarded.

THE TALIBAN GOVERNING CHAMBER

The Taliban Ruler is asleep on his throne. Hillary stands behind the Taliban Ruler as Saddam comes up to him.

HILLARY
At last! President Bush has come to rescue me.

SADDAM
Master.

The Taliban Ruler awakens with a start and Saddam continues, in Arabic:

SADDAM
...George W. Bush, President of the United States.

THE TALIBAN RULER
I told you not to admit him.

PRESIDENT BUSH
I must be allowed to speak.

SADDAM
He must be allowed to speak.

The Taliban Ruler, furious, clobbers Saddam and shoves him away.

THE TALIBAN RULER
You weak-minded fool! He's using the same American trick his father used.

President Bush stares hard at the Taliban Ruler.

PRESIDENT BUSH
You will bring Usama Bin Laden to me.

THE TALIBAN
Your mind powers will not work on me, boy.

PRESIDENT BUSH
Nevertheless, I'm taking Usama Bin Laden and his organization. You can either profit by this... or be destroyed! It's your choice. But I warn you not to underestimate my powers.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

A Brief History of The Man



This blog has chronicled the adventures of the AfroSquad for over 10 years. One of the original concepts behind the AfroSquad, before the wrestling and before the comedy, was a struggle against The Man.

But what is The Man? How long have people been fighting The Man?

According to the AfroSquad,

"The Man" is an intangible bugaboo that masterminds the hardships and tragedies of that thing we call life. Being technologically superior, he can morph into anything he wants- your boss, the local authorities, the president, your parents, a lawyer, the guy that signs your inadequate paycheck, etc."

The AfroSquad was highly influenced by the blaxplotation films of the the 1970s. But The Man goes back further than that. Much further.

The Oxford Dictionary of American Political Slang does a great job of detailing all the early mentions of The Man on page 173.



In the 1960s, The Man moved from Southern and Black Etymology to a more wider use. White counterculture also used the term to discuss their frustration with authority.  While Yippies and others diminished the racial and historical context, fighting The Man became a universal effort. This change is well described in The Age of the Crisis of Man: Thought and Fiction in America, 1933–1973 by Mark Greif, pages 269-272.


While fighting The Man had become universal, The Man moved to black cinema as the omnipotent antagonist in blaxplotation films. According to museumofuncutfunk.com

"During the 1970’s the term “The Man” became a part of the vernacular of the Blaxploitation film era. “The Man” referred to the police, the mob, the politicians and anyone who was white with power. In most cases “The Man” held the key to the destruction or redemption of Black characters in these films."

After blaxploitation films, The Man slowly diminished from use as a negative term. It started being used as a positive term such as "You are The Man." 

In the late 90s, the AfroSquad started doing their thing in the early internet.

Then, in 2002, The Man had a renaissance in cinema with the movie Undercover Brother. Comedian Eddie Griffin’s character took on a faceless Man who ran an omnipotent multi-national corporation and made life difficult for a diverse group of heroes.

Currently, there is news that Undercover Brother 2 will soon see the light of day. Will the antagonist be The Man?

The Man is still out there, and still holding people down. We should never forget the original meaning and absolute power of The Man.

Monday, August 26, 2019

When COBRA tried to blow up Florida Championship Wrestling

This was a fun video made by SnowMan of the Afro-Squad from our days attending Florida Championship Wrestling (now NXT) in Tampa. Good times, and by the way, SnowMan is a cinematic genius.

I think this video was supposed to be a prequel to another video we did in which I have a bigger role.


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.