Friday, December 22, 2017

How Pro Wrestlers Can Use Social Media

I wrote this article for a pro wrestling website in 2010. The article is no longer online so I wanted to repost it here. Some of the advice is a little outdated, but a majority of it still applies. Also, since 2010, professional wrestlers have fully embraced social media in ways that far exceed this article. Perhaps the biggest difference between what I wrote and what has happened is the continued blending of character and reality. There exists a weird pseudo-kayfabe these days, a model led by the WWE, where most wrestlers compete in character only in the ring. Outside the ring, there are normal athletes. The rare exceptions are the unnatural "monsters" of the ring, such as Braun Strowman. Even characters such as Bray Wyatt tweet football scores.

Other than that, here is my 2,600 advice column on how pro wrestlers can use the web to create a better brand.

Social Media and Self-Promotion: How Independent Pro Wrestlers Can Use the Web to Create a Better Brand

The world of marketing has become more and more individualistic in recent years. Businesses, both small and large alike, have taken to directly interacting with their customers through forums such as blogs, online video, and any one of many social networking sites (Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, etc.) . Gone are the days when customers were regarded as mass receivers of data and the recipients of “culture”, force-fed their likes and dislikes by money-making industries. In today’s market, the customer is now a target to interact with, listen to, and react to.

Few businesses have traditionally integrated the feedback of customers into their decisions better than professional wrestling.  The approval or disapproval of fans can make or break a wrestler’s career, or at least his or her character.  It is the fans who “put over” wrestlers, allowing for more exposure, more complex storylines, and more potential for marketing dollars.

In the book Steel Chair to the Head, writer and theater and film professor Sharon Mazer writes that the connection of fans to wrestlers is the lifeblood of the business.

“Everything about the event, from the advance publicity … to the action in the ring, has explicitly catered to (the fans).  The promoter promises he’s going to give them what they want: ‘real’ wrestling.  If it happens that what the promoter presents fails to fulfill their expectations, the fans have a way of telling him and his wrestlers so.” (Mazer, 72)

Unfortunately, a majority of marketing in the independent pro wrestling business is done by local promoters who, because of either lack of marketing ability or lack of budget, tend to only see the big picture for their company. These promoters will not usually go out of their way to “put over” individual workers.  Wrestlers, especially at the independent (non-WWE) level, are left to market and promote themselves.

Possibly due to the lack of assistance, many wrestlers choose only to promote themselves during the small window of time allotted to them during performances. They may sign a few autographs, pose in a few pictures, or even talk to a few fans. With an array of online platforms at their disposal, however, marketing and promoting only during the time granted by a promoter should not be the case.  Today’s wrestlers can take advantage of all the tools at their disposal and foster a digital connection with fans. They can easily break their reliance on promoters and push themselves as a brand, creating a buzz that will hopefully put “butts in the seats”.

This three-part guide is written help professional wrestlers promote themselves as a brand and take more control of their own promotion.

Step 1: Define Yourself: Go 100% Kayfabe or go 100% Real – There is No In-Between

The first decision a wrestler must make is how they want to approach their audience. Do they want to promote themselves as a “real” person or stay in “kayfabe” (aka their in-ring character)?  Do they want to be “Dwayne Johnson” or do they want to be “The Rock”? Under no circumstances should wrestlers should switch back and forth while engaging fans. Switching not only ruins the character, it distorts the fan’s expectation of what the brand actually is.  For an indy wrestler, imitating the pseudo-real characters presently popular in the WWE should be avoided at all cost.

The most effective way to stay in character is to create two online personalities – one for wrestling, and the other for personal interaction.  The latter web presence would be for interacting with friends, family, co-workers, etc and the former for engaging fans.  No matter how tempting, if wrestlers choose to market themselves and build their character online, they must stay in character, no matter what.  Fans will respect performers more in principle if they keep the curtain up than if they jerked the curtain up and down.

Additionally, keeping in character online means wrestlers should not in any way, shape, or form, add, befriend, follow, or otherwise network with anyone they have a feud with.  Ever. Wrestlers should make sure they correspond their online connections with their storylines so fans have no doubt as to where the wrestler stands on other performers.

Step 2: Create a “Home” Page

There are several online tools for engaging fans.  The first, and most important, is the home page.  The home page should be the first destination a fan can go to see the latest and greatest news about a wrestler – where they have wrestled, who they have wrestled, and, most importantly, where they are wrestling next. It should be the number one location fans find when they do an online search for a wrestler’s name.  The home page is also where wrestlers should post pictures, videos, and contact information.

These days it is entirely possible to have a homepage hosted on a third party site.  Wrestlers no longer need to purchase their URL (ex. and or possess the web skills to create and post a web page, although owning the URL of their name is highly recommended.  Using platforms on the market today, wrestlers, even those with the smallest bit of programming talent, can create a decent central location for fans.

The most popular third party homepage is Facebook, with MySpace close behind.  Both of these social networking platforms allow wrestlers to post status updates, news, pictures, and videos.  Most importantly, however, they allow them to see their fan base and engage their fans either through comments or messages.

No matter what platform, the homepage should be kept up to date.  Like hitting the gym or practicing a promo, wrestlers should work on their online skills at least 3-5 days a week. Although sometimes the simplest announcement is enough to keep the fans’ interest level high, wrestlers should definitely spend time building and pushing information and interacting with as many fans as possible.

Step 3: Utilize Social Media

Along with home pages, wrestlers should also be proficient in other forms of social media.  Forums such as Twitter, Bulletin Boards, and YouTube should serve to supplement the wrestler’s online persona.  These sites should be avenues of not only communication, but broadcast.  Each of these tools can connect with audiences different from those on a home page.  Using these platforms is not about the in-ring performance at all. It is about letting character and personality come through.

Twitter – The microblogger service Twitter is immensely beneficial for wrestlers looking to promote themselves. It allows them to engage with an enormous amount of people, places, and things. Anyone on Twitter is a potential fan and target.  Wrestlers should attempt to broaden their fan base by interacting with as many people as possible. For a wrestler, the entire twitterverse is an audience. Wrestlers are not limited at all in who they can address via Twitter. They can harass or hail Oprah, belittle or befriend Aston Kutcher, or even imitate or insult Shaquille O’Neal. Twitter also allows for massive networking as workers can find and tweet with other wrestlers throughout the Twitterverse, as well as create relationships with local business, artists, media outlets, and other creative personalities.

The benefit of Twitter is not only in its ability to network and engage.  It can also be used as a blog.  Wrestlers can post updates, announcements, or links via Twitter. They can also create lists, allowing fans a glimpse into what people, places, and things the wrestler follows.

For those without much experience on Twitter, it would help to first follow a few people in various fields (again looking at celebrities, musicians, artists, businesses, etc.) and get a feel for the capability. After learning the system and seeing some of the tricks of the trade, the best thing to do is jump in with both feet. The truth of Twitter is that the more you engage, the better the benefit. On Twitter, the floor is open for those not only with the gift of gab, but also with any bit of creative networking ability.

Bulletin Boards – Perhaps the most common form of current interaction online between wrestlers and fans occurs in bulletin boards.  These sites, often run by fans, are places where the followers of wrestling discuss everything from storylines and performances to the subtle nuances that make for a great show. Although some bulletin board participants are experts in wrestling, a majority have never ever been active in the ring.  No matter their experience, they are nothing if not passionate. They love wrestling and enjoy engaging with similarly passionate fans.

Although participating in a bulletin board discussions is not a bad thing, wrestlers looking to increase their fan base and find new followers would be best advised to push their message elsewhere.  The fans on bulletin boards are already sold on wrestling and are likely to attend local shows regardless of the card. They are fans of the art and the overall production as much as of individual performers. Wrestlers should partake in board discussions sparingly, although they should still keep an eye out to gauge the diehard wrestling fans’ perception of their performance.

YouTube – One of the best and easiest ways for a wrestler to promote his or herself is via YouTube. It should be a natural fit for wrestlers to use the camera to promote their personalities and overall brand. Uploading videos to YouTube has a low barrier of entry and the potential for amazingly high reward.

A recent article by blogger Dan Schwabel on the social media web site[1] explores a three step process for users to establish themselves on YouTube.  Schwabel lists the following steps:
  • Brand Your Profile

  • Create Remarkable Videos

  • Promote Your Videos
Like homepages, these steps are not only applicable to businesses, but also to professional wrestlers.  “Brand your profile” means taking the time to create a specific YouTube location, or channel, where fans can go to watch all a wrestler’s matches, promos, or other adventures.  This is essential. Wrestlers should not depend on third parties to post matches and promos. If a promotion prohibits creating videos at their event due to trade secrets, their own pre-arranged contracts, or merely the need to exhibit control, then wrestlers should flood the web with outside-location character-building videos and promos.

What wrestlers put on these videos is Schwabel’s second step. Wrestlers should look beyond the mat to sell themselves as entertainers. As wrestling is at least half performance, YouTube provides the ideal medium for out-of-the-ring creativity.  Wrestlers could not only cut their own promos, they could create short skits of the wrestler interacting on the street, in the mall, at the mayor’s office, etc. Of course, the more the skit fits the wrestler’s personality, the better. These skits could even be similar to those used by the WWE, then WWF, in the late 1980s and early 1990s. For example, if a wrestler played a solider gimmick, he or she might want to create a skit at the local VFW or National Guard armory. The possibilities are endless.

Schwabel’s final step is to “Promote Your videos”. This means bringing the social media net together. This step involves embedding videos on a home page, posting it on a bulletin board, and putting the link on Twitter. This is the selling step and requires almost as much work as the creating step. However, the more media a wrestler has across the Internet, the better the chances a fan is going to see the wrestler. Of course, like any other video maker, wrestlers should aspire to get their videos to “go viral”, and have fans push and promote the videos to their friends, followers, and other influential entities. Then those people push it to their friends, who post it and push it to their friends and so on. Once a wrestler’s video goes viral, it is just a matter of time before the fans buy a ticket and see them at a wrestling show.

Step 4: Connect the Web with the Ring

Social media and networking doesn’t stop when a wrestler gets off a computer. Brand marketing should continue at the show and in the ring. Wrestlers should make the most of the time given to them by promoters and push their web sites, Twitter feeds, Facebook pages, MySpace pages, and any other platform to the fans. Wrestlers should do whatever it takes to integrate their online personas with their in-ring personas. Some ideas may include promoting their web page in promos, their Facebook address on t-shirts, their twitter account on photos, their YouTube channel on business cards, their MySpace page on flyers, or even putting their email address on autographs. Any mixing and matching of online reminders and real life souvenirs provides fans the ability to look for more.

Optimally, the best situation is where a fan goes to a show for the first time and is so interested in the character and ability of a wrestler that he or she looks up the wrestler’s online presence. If the wrestler is on any one of the many sites mentioned above, the first-time fan could easily grow to become a full-time fan. And when the wrestler notices the fan joining his or her following, the wrestler pushes content to the fan. The fan then absorbs the content and grows more and more interested in returning.  When the second match does occur, the first-time fan becomes a second-time fan. Then the second-time fan sees, reads, or hears a reminder from the wrestler to visit the wrestler’s page again. Hopefully the process becomes ongoing and the wrestler has his or herself a legitimate fan base. A fan base that puts butts in the seats no matter where the wrestler is booked or who is doing the booking.

Step 5: Stay Flexible but Remember Your Brand

Many wrestlers choose not to push themselves via social media because they are unsure of the direction of their character. Under the current system, promoters drive wrestlers’ characters, forcing them to play the role of heel one week and possibly face the next. Unless they have a strong gimmick, wrestlers can’t tell a promoter they will not play a certain role for fear of lack of work. Accordingly, if wrestlers don’t know their role, how can they maintain a constant message to the fans? Wouldn’t social media have an opposite effect if the fans are expecting one character only to see a complete opposite emerge from behind the curtain?

The answer to this dilemma is that wrestlers must stay flexible but absolutely, without a doubt remember their brand. That brand is their selling point. Wrestlers should turn down any promoter who tries to put them in a story line that would ruin days, weeks, months, or even years of self-establishment. Wrestlers need to maintain their gimmick and insist promoters respect their work, for if the wrestler has a strong enough buzz he or she will have a profound effect on the attendance. And of course, attendance leads to dollars which leads to a happy promoter.

Even if a promoter or storyline causes a jarring shift in a wrestler’s character, a good social media campaign should be able to compensate. With an active online presence that conveys the character’s feelings on a regular basis, wrestlers may be able to use creative license and add additional details or background to the storyline. A growing and continuous story will lead to a self-fulfilling cycle of fans who demand more information.

Step 6: Have Fun

Lastly, the most important point about using social media to promote and interact is that it should be fun. Social websites should be an enjoyable way to interact with the fans, watch communities grow, and eventually see more people come out and support local independent wrestling. There is no rule that says wrestlers must have an online presence, and many wrestlers have been successful without being on the Web. But for those wrestlers who want to take their characters and gimmicks to the next level and expand their creative potential, the entire social Web can be their squared circle.


Saturday, November 18, 2017

When algorithms miss the point, Exhibit 52,986

Everyone knows algorithms control much of what we see online. If you didn't deliberately look for something on the world wide web, then odds are it was given to you via algorithm.

But sometimes those algorithms miss the point. Sometimes they show the complete opposite of what they should be showing. This is often the case on Facebook, where the algorithm attempts to work quickly based on what user just wrote.

A good example of this happened to me on November 5th. Following the Texas church shooting, I wrote the following on Facebook:

BAD FB ad suggestions2


Given the current political climate, this could be construed in an anti-gun post, although I did not mention the typical key words of an anti-gun post. I didn't mention the following:

  • control

  • hearts and prayers

  • NRA

  • guns

  • victims

So perhaps the algorithm didn't know what to do with me when it posted the following ads on my page:



Two of the three ads are for firearms-related activities. One is to build a weapon that has often been used in mass shootings. That's not a good look by Facebook.

No, I will not learn the art of reloading, build an AR-15, and drive my pick-up truck. Those are enjoyable actions, but I am not in the market for them when I am posting about a large shooting with multiple gun-related victims.

Perhaps these ads are what the Russians would want me to support given my demographic: guns and trucks. If that's the case, as I wrote in my post: Put me down for the opposite.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Jedi Academics During War: A counterpoint to Dan Drezner

The trailer for The Last Jedi was released last week and we are a distant two months until the 8th chapter in the Skywalker Saga is in theaters. But there is a great disturbance in the galaxy. Begun, the overanalysis has. Fans are pouring through the details of the two minute trailer hoping to figure out the plot of the movie. What will happen to Luke, Leia, Rey, and Kylo Ren? Who is Snoke? Will Porg-mania take over?

As I am often prone to do, I read a lot of smart takes on Star Wars. I have an entire page of links of articles analyzing Star Wars - from military operations, religious understanding, to business and media.  I am expecting to add to the list upon the release of The Last Jedi.

Beating the pack to overanalysis of The Last Jedi is an article on The Washington Post website by political scientist Dan Drezner. Drezner extrapolates a few scenes from the trailer and advances a theory that Luke Skywalker and other Jedi in the saga are flawed professors and it is this inability to properly teach that dooms their pupils and opens up opportunities for chaos in the galaxy.

Drezner cites as evidence several Jedi and apprentice relationships that failed:
I am increasingly of the mind that it is a saga about poor mentoring. Think about it: Obi-Wan fails Anakin, Palpatine fails Anakin, Obi-Wan lies to Luke (don’t give me that “different point of view” crap), Yoda fails to get Luke to stay in Dagobah to complete his training, and Luke fails Kylo Ren. This is an appalling track record, and it bodes ill for Rey. In the seven films that have been released, we only witness one example of competent mentoring: Qui-Gon’s tutoring of Obi-Wan. And even that was cut short.

I've read Drezner's blogs for close to 10 years. I have his book International Relations and Zombies (review here). Normally I agree with his views or he at least makes me think. But here his analysis is missing a very important point. A point so large as to ruin his entire premise.

Drezner's theory fails to account for the fact that all the training we see in Star Wars occurs during a time of war. As many military members with a collection of colleges and courses can attest, deployments and military exercises wreak havoc on academic aspirations. This is not the instructors' fault, but the fault of circumstances.

(By the way, modern academia has three advantages over Jedi training:

In Star Wars, interrupted Jedi programs are not only the norm for a generation of Jedi, but a problem that becomes more prominent as time goes on. Unlike Sith training, which is highly emotional, Jedi training is a long, elaborate process of mind and body.

If we assume the Republic was at relative peace prior to the tiff between the Trade Federation and the Naboo, or there was at least no large scale galactic war (the Mandalorians were probably at war, as usual), then the first padawan we know of (Obi-Wan Kenobi) was taught in a much calmer time. There were no Sith or Inquisitors hunting Jedi and padawans had the full luxury of the Jedi Library and all the Jedi mentors at their disposal. Kenobi was basically trained in a Jedi University.

While Anakin (Obi-Wan's padawan) also had the Jedi Temple, Library, and mentors to learn from, he was often in combat for the Republic. Time for study was not a priority during the Clone Wars, with deployments and missions on a regular basis.

If war does not make one great, there was no way Anakin could have become a great Jedi since most of his time was spent participating in war.

Anakin's training was on commanding Clone Troops and training insurgencies as it was Jedi training. He was as much warrior as academic, almost equivalent to Special Forces training in both culture and combat. So although he passed the Jedi Trials, he probably had to rush through the training - possibly only memorizing the answers and not understanding them in context or meaning - a huge problem for spiritual understanding and the reason he was exploitable to social engineering.

The war climate also prevented the completion of training for two characters in the acclaimed cartoons: Ashoka Tano and Kanan Jarrus. In The Clone Wars, Ashoka was Anakin's padawan and accompanied him on many deployments and missions throughout her teens and twenties. Her involvement in the war may have led to her unfortunate dismissal and subsequent shunning of the Jedi order. It is probable that without the overarching conflict, Ashoka would have become a strong Jedi Master. Due to the war and the politics of a Jedi Order woefully struggling with its new place in a government at war, she became a rogue Force wielder.

For Kanan Jarrus of Star Wars: Rebels, Jedi training was cut short as his master was killed on the battlefield during Order 66.  Throughout the Rebels cartoon, Jarrus must mind the few lessons he learned during the war, picking up lessons along the way from Tano and the spiritual guidance of Yoda. From the cartoon, we don't know if Jarrus went through the Jedi Trials. Was he ever a Jedi Knight? Did the war and the resulting rebellion allow Jarrus the time to reach any standard of training?

Jarrus continues to complicate Jedi training by taking a padawan, Ezra Bridger. At first, Jarrus is hesitant as he is unsure of his own abilities, but he is encouraged to train Bridger and does so the best he can. But is again during a time of war. There is no ability to visit Coruscant and the Jedi Library and gain any formal knowledge. While they visit random smaller Jedi Temples and we see Jarrus and Bridger interact with a Jedi holocron, the main institution of formal Jedi training is not available to a generation of aspiring Jedi.

Following The Clone Wars and Order 66, there is no longer any way to formally train a Jedi, especially in the far reaches of the galaxy. War made Jedi training catch-as-catch can.

And this brings us to the least formally trained Jedi in Star Wars saga, Luke Skywalker. While Luke had brief tutelage under Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda, his training was often interrupted by rebellion and battle. Even if had stayed at Dagobah with the elderly Yoda, how much more could he possibly learn? Granted, he is a Skywalker and Dagobah is rife with the Living Force, but Luke would still never be as formally or thoroughly trained as Obi-Wan.

Luke's lack of training is not Yoda's fault. It is circumstantial.

By Episode 6 (Return of the Jedi), Luke has developed as a Jedi. Those of us who only see the movies and cartoons are left to guess how this happened. Did he return to Dagobah? Did he sneak into Coruscant to study at the Jedi Library? Did he find a holocron? Did he meet with other Jedi in hiding - perhaps Kannan, Bridger, or Ashoka Tano?

However he did it, Luke became so powerful that 30 years after the fall of the Empire, people searched the galaxy for his assistance.

Although we can postulate Luke's power, based on what we know thus far, we can't fully analyze Kylo Ren or Rey's training. We know Kylo Ren has been trained - both by Luke and by Snoke.

From what we know about a generation of Jedi education and what little we know about what happens, it is impossible to blame Luke Skywalker for Kylo Ren or Rey's skills or faults. There is no way to compare Jedi training during the Clone Wars, the Galactic Civil War, and the resulting conflict with the First Order to previous Jedi training or the luxury and relative comfort held by American professors and students.

To blame Luke is not true, even from a certain point of view.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Donald Trump and Empathy

The President of the United States has an empathy problem.

His problem is that he has never needed empathy. He has never needed to care about a community, nor anyone outside a community. As a real estate magnate, he was never in the people-caring business.

That's not to say he is the only president who has ever had an empathy problem. I'm sure others have lacked in that department as well. That is also not to say he hasn't shown concern or care for individuals on occasion.

Nor, lastly, is this to say that a lack of empathy is a disqualifier to hold the world's most powerful political office. This is merely an observation on Donald Trump, President of the United States, and his actions thus far in the office.

When Trump won, I knew his lack of empathy was going to plague his administration. He ran a highly divisive campaign in perhaps the most divisive election in America in over 100 years. He kept his campaign focused on taking sides on social issues, instead of focusing on policies - which frustrated many pundits and fellow candidates. But by taking sides, he alienated those who disagreed and he has yet to show interest in building bridges to bring those who disagreed with him into the fold.

Dr. Richard Friedman, a professor of Clinical Psychiatry at the Cornell Medical College, recently wrote that Trump is a master of empathy.  Friedman stated Trump's ability to empathize with his base is what keeps them on his side. He concluded that Trump uses that empathy to feed the fears of his base and create a bond with them.

I think Friedman is right to a point. What he gets wrong is that Trump doesn't really understand the struggles of his base. Trump's political connection with his base is not empathy for people, but empathy for power. He understands there is power in drumming up fear and he used that to sell himself as the savior against all that would reduce the social power of his base - be that globalism, terrorism, or liberalism.

President Trump is an admirer of power. He seems to believe politics is about power, not people. He lauds those who have power, and doesn't identify well with those who don't. That is to be expected from a billionaire. Rarely do those with their own private jet understand those at the bus stops. But as president of all Americans, Trump represents the people at the bus stop as much as those in penthouses and private yachts.

Thus far, Trump's statements have given little indication that he will learn to be empathetic. He pins blame, points fingers, and plays favorites. He might be great at business, tax plans, and trade, and he may tweet a generically empathetic platitude when needed, but connecting on social issues will continue to befuddle him.

Trump's lack of empathy looks even worse when compared to previous presidents. For better or for worse, President Obama was seen as very empathetic to minority struggles in America. Likewise, President George W. Bush was a church-going, God-fearing man with a good heart, although he may have been the victim of bad advice on Iraq and slow movement on New Orleans.

For President Trump, meanwhile, every cameo at a golf course and every awkward speech further distances him from many of those he represents. While many will never like him as a person nor have any tolerance for his policies, his ability to connect could earn him the respect of the position.

Increasingly, empathy is considered an essential element of leadership. Understanding the trials, tribulations, and life decisions of team members is an advantage in building unity and cohesion.

According to Justin Bariso, who writes about Emotional Intelligence and the ability to connect,
If a leader can demonstrate true empathy to individual team members, it will go a long way toward encouraging them to perform at their best. It may even inspire the team to show empathy for the leader.
Trump seems to want Americans to "make America great again", but can't seem to connect with half of them on a personal level. He has a slogan, but getting people to run with that mission statement requires emotional buy-in. If Trump can't connect with people, he will have a hard time motivating them.

This is another difference between real estate and other corporations. Trump's money came from development and the value of land and buildings. There was little production outside of construction. And those doing construction were not building based on Trump's vision, they were building based on his specifications.

Trump's dilemma reminds me of an old Casey Stengel quote, "The secret of managing is to keep the guys who hate you away from the guys who are undecided.” Those who oppose Trump (and there are many) can easily run the narrative unless he shows empathy. Showing empathy and not causing conflict may create empathy for Trump himself.

Among other difficulties, Donald Trump has an empathy problem. It is tough to teach an old dog new tricks, and even more difficult to teach empathy to a 70-year old man whose empathy muscles have atrophied, if they were ever developed.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Essentials for a perfect blaxploitation film

From an LA Times article that is no longer online (author unknown at this time):
Stick it to The Man: Black paranoia is usually right in there. There’s usually this conspiratorial thing that The Man is plotting your doom. There’s a lot of real blaxploitation movies that involve a plot to exterminate black people. It’s a constant storyline. In these movies, white people spend 95% of their time coming up with plots against black people.

White people by the pool: Every one of those [’70s blaxploitation flicks] depicted white people beside a swimming pool. We actually had that scene, but we cut it. A lot of times they were older character actors.

Speed over quality: A lot of the time you had your money and you were getting this movie done no matter what. In ‘Black Caesar,’ an actor had a mike cord wrapped around his leg in one shot, but they just kept going. Stuff stays in the movie. They had one, maybe two takes, so if the boom mike snuck in there, they left it.

Vietnam: The blaxploitation era sprung out of the post-Vietnam time, where the brothers were not treated right in Vietnam and they came back to no jobs. A lot of the heroes were cats who came from Vietnam and had soldier-type skills that they used to take down The Man or clear the streets of drugs.

Ex-football players: In blaxploitation, an ex-football player was automatically an actor. He was the equivalent of the rapper today. There was even a movie called ‘Black Six’ that was just six football players and that was how they advertised it. They even sold the players’ team position in the trailer.

Sex: The movies were always sexually charged. It was the ’70s and the sexual revolution time.

Kung fu: Martial arts is a big thing in blaxploitation movies and that [includes a] love affair with kung fu. A lot of the blaxploitation heroes didn’t know kung fu, but they wanted to try the moves anyway.

The awkward love scene: These football players were told to act all tender with a woman on camera and they always seemed uncomfortable. When they had these moments, you could see them pushing to get there.

The convenient back story: Anything you wanted the hero to be, he was. The CIA was in the story? The hero used to be in the CIA. Orphans were in trouble? The hero had been an orphan.

The exploding car off a cliff: Cars always exploded for no reason.

Bad physics: When somebody got shot, they would often fall the wrong direction.

Random theater actors: You had really terrible actors alongside these theater actors trying to be drug dealers, but they’d over-enunciate everything.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

My profile said I should apply to Hooters

I've been looking for a new job recently. This is not a big secret. My bosses told me the budget for my job ends in December. They know I am looking and they are helping where possible. So not a secret at all.

As part of my job hunt, I have signed up for various websites that send me alerts when openings match the keywords of my resume. 99.9% of the time, these emails are accurate, sending alerts for military analyst, financial analyst, or business analyst positions.

The other day, however, I received the following alert:

Merchandiser? I guess that's sales and business.

Business Analyst for a HealthCare company? Makes sense. That's the field I am in now.

Brand Ambassador? That's marketing, I think.

Hooters Girl ....

How did they come up with that?

I'm sure I would do a great job. I think I have what it takes to fit in.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

17 life lessons learned in Afghanistan

I found a list I wrote before I left Afghanistan in 2013. On it, I wrote all the words of wisdom I heard in my 14 months in that country. Each of these lessons have helped me in the years since.
  • Keep people excited - In order to be listened to, you have to keep people excited about what you are about to tell them
  • Learn - continuous learning is essential
  • Understand Subject Matter Expert's level of knowledge - when asking questions, understand how much information you can get from a Subject Matter Expert. Don't badger a Subject Matter Expert if you have reached the peak of their knowledge. If they don't know, they don't know.
  • Stay relevant - not only should you continuously learn, but you need to keep your face out there. A smart person who is never seen is irrelevant.
  • Credibility - Credibility is huge but also very fragile. You never want to be see as not credible.
  • Listen - Listen to what people want and what they are really asking for. Don't jump to conclusions. Many times people don't know what they need. Ask questions if needed.
  • Try to understand from other's intent / perspective - this goes hand-in-hand with listening. Showing empathy and understanding what people need goes a long way.
  • Look into the politics of emails, policies, and messages - look at what is said and what is not said as well as who emails are sent to. If someone CCs a supervisor, that's important. If someone CCs your supervisor, that's even more important.
  • Love what is - Also known as "embrace the suck". Deal with life the way it is handed to you, wishing things were different will get you nowhere.
  • Control only what you can control - Another perspective on loving what is, but this in regards to exerting power or change on an issue. Likewise, know what you can't control and understand why.
  • They don't know - Most people do not know what you know. They might be clamoring for information, but not have it. It is your job to inform them.
  • People aren't dumb, just uninformed - Similar to the above, but insulting people who don't know isn't the right answer, even if they are defensive. Walk them to the right answer, even if it means diffusing their anger.
  • Difference between a leader / manager / supervisor
    • Leader: Vision
    • Manager: Acts on vision
    • Supervisor: Insures direct functions are done
  • People with Master's Degrees should be able to manage 9 things at a time
  • It depends - the typical answer for every question. Everything depends. Only commit where you absolutely have to and for what resources you absolutely have to.
  • Acceptable Risk - There will always be risk. Likewise, we have many ways to mitigate risk. But we don't want to overcommit our valuable resources to reducing risk to zero if we can operate with a level of acceptable risk.
  • Freedom to fly or fail - Give people the a chance to step up. If they fail, they at least had a chance. Don't stifle their growth.
  • 2nd and 3rd order effects - Very important. What will the reaction be to your actions? Try to minimize unwanted repercussions. Don't act without learning how actions can set another chain of events.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

I should write more often

It is a calm Sunday night in my small house. The dishes are done, the laundry is done (not folded, of course), a candle is lit, and  jazz is playing on the Music Choice cable channel. There is a relaxing tone to the night, with the only excitement coming from an occasional trumpet or drum solo.

I have to go to work tomorrow, but tomorrow seems so far away - several hours until I need to sleep. I've never needed that much sleep - six hours is optimal, but five hours will get me through the day. I tend to plan my night based on how much sleep I need. Since most work days have the same wake-up time, the previous night is always limited based on backplanning. "Backplanning", a term I learned in the military, meaning plan from the objective backwards. And being at work on time is a worthwhile objective.

But enough about Monday, let's bring it back to Sunday. Tonight. My calm night of doing nothing. Once dinner was finished, I turned on my computer to see what the world is up to. It is still amazing that I can log in and the whole world is on a party line these days. I am old enough to remember when finding out the news of the day took place the day after.

So I logged on to social media - the twitters and the Facebooks - and it seems everyone is talking about the conclusion of a television show I have never watched. Not that I am against television shows, I am just not a regular viewer of anything but sports or pro wrestling. I know when they are on and I tune in. I'm not even as big of a fan of either as I once was, but I still tune in. I couldn't even tell you what channels any of the other shows are on.

We still use channels, right? I know a lot of people watch their shows via their apps. Channels are a thing of the past. I wonder if we will be able to put all of our apps on any thing connected to the the Internet of Things. Could I catch up to Game of Thrones on the monitor on my refrigerator?

Do you know what really scares me? What if toilet paper rollers were connected to the Internet of Things? "You've been using more toilet paper than usual, here is an ad for diarrhea medicine." No, you crazy internet of things, I have a house guest.

What a weird world we will live in when my toilet paper roller tries to assume my bodily functions. We are close to that. You can already buy a freezer that connects to your phone. In case you want to text your frozen chicken.

But that is something I have been reading a lot about recently. Not frozen chicken - the growth of technology and the threats we face in an interconnected society.

Drum solo.

Now we are back to the slow part of the night. Things are calm and things are alright. There are so many things I could do tonight. I have a pile of magazines on my coffee table - Forbes and Fortune Magazines from the last three years. I think everyone has a pile of magazines they haven't read. It comes with being an American citizen. Here is your birth certificate, social security number, and a stack of old Sports Illustrated and National Geographics.

Alongside the pile of business magazines that have not been read at the speed of business, are a stack of bank statements and receipts I should file. I like to check off my spending each month to make sure I am not spending too much. I think that is one of the tasks you are assigned when you reach adulthood - you start to balance your personal budget. For a few years, my budget was simple - nothing coming in, too much coming out. Luckily, I had some money in a savings account. But how close I came to homelessness is a story for another day.

So I have piles of random paperwork around my house. They are on my coffee table, on my kitchen table, on my kitchen counter, and in my office. Slowly but surely, my goal is work my way though the years of papers, bills, notes, and magazines I have let collect in the last five years. The good news is I am more than halfway done.

The bad news is I seldom write any more. I miss writing. I have always described myself as a writer. I have an unpublished novel on my computer that perhaps I should dust off and try to publish. I think it is good. It might need some touching up and maybe some editing. Maybe I will send it to a few people to read and get their thoughts. Good thing it is a timeless story.

Enough about the story and the characters of my writing and more about me. I am the main character of this piece. Actually, I think I am the only character. That's fine. I am supposed to write about what I know. I know myself quite well.

Although I used to write often, I haven't written creatively in a long time. I haven't created a character in even longer. I haven't placed this new character in a fictional world. I wonder how many writers put their characters in the same world they live in. It would be quite boring to read about a character who goes to work everyday and hangs out on quiet Sunday nights with jazz and a candle. Maybe I should write a Walter Mitty-type story.

Maybe I should start writing about anything. Maybe I should take the last 30 minutes of my night and dump my thoughts on the screen or in a notebook. Maybe I should write a certain amount of words.

Maybe I should write 1,000 words.

Here are words 995-1,000.

I should write more often.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

KRS-One talks about White Supremacy

Filmed in Tampa a few years ago, hip-hop legend KRS-One discusses "white supremacy" and why it is a bad label for those who believe in Europeans being a dominant and "superior" culture.

Friday, July 21, 2017

When anxiety catches up to the career dabbler

What do you do when you feel like all you've done hasn't gotten you to where you want to be?

That's a tough question. But I feel it is applicable to me right now. Where I am is in an unstable career pattern of seven jobs in seven years, and only one (the latest) for long than seven months. And this job ends at the end of the year, and is only part-time with no benefits and lower pay than I would like. But I took it because I needed something.

That's part of the problem.

I've taken every job I have ever had because I needed something. I got a job at McDonalds because I need to pay for a car. I joined the Army because I couldn't afford college and it seemed like a good idea. I moved to Tampa to take a job at on a military base because I needed a job and I had the qualifications. I went to Afghanistan because I couldn't find anything stateside and I was running out of money.

On and on it goes.

Years ago, I had a friend who is a doctor. She knew she wanted to be a doctor since she was five years old. Everything she did was in that direction. I find that impressive and incredible. Also completely foreign.

I'm not saying everyone should know what they want to do for the rest of their lives when they are in Kindergarten. That's super rare. But to be a mid-career professional with no career direction, but with diplomas and acclaim and a resume full of accomplishments is equally odd. At least I think it is.

Now that I am settled in my living situation and it has been seven months since my MBA graduation, I have the time now to take stock in what is important to me. What is it that I want? What is it that will make me happy? Is it in marketing? Is it in administration? Is it in something else? Is it trying to start my own business? Is what makes me happy here in Tampa?

I have determined I need responsibility. I need to be responsible for something. I need to be The Guy in charge of something people want. Someone someone goes to when they need something.

This is even lacking in my personal life.

Maybe I need a dog.

I would say maybe I need to have kids, but that brings up a whole other can of worms that is also probably affected by my lack of career focus.

It is incredibly hard to be motivated to date when you can't sell stability. My mind is too focused on the future than on trying to build a strong present relationship.

"This one a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away, to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was, hmm? What he was doing. Hmm. Adventure. Heh. Excitement. Heh. A Jedi craves not these things." - Yoda

Having your mind on the future is ok to a point, but constantly re-evaluating your five year plan isn't the most stable way to go. Bringing back the Yoda quote, once Luke Skywalker committed, he became the most sought after Jedi in the galaxy.

My problem is that I am not confident in where I am. I am Luke Sywalker in the beginning of Empire Strikes Back - a guy who did some awesome stuff, but hasn't figured out where he fits in the overall picture. Like Luke, I am confident in what I have done, definitely. I am confident that I will do something in the future. But right now is a bit unstable. That's not easy to sell to a member of the opposite sex, especially combined with the lack of being responsible for anything - not even a dog.

So I have to find focus. I have to find a direction and run that way. If that means shedding non-productive ventures, so be it. I'll still have my fun and still work on creative projects, but the focus needs to be on building a base, the roots of a strong tree that I can hinge every other career decision on. Without that strong career base, my future will be blowing in the wind.

A few days ago, I read an article in Fast Company entitled "The Most Common Career Advice that Graduates Should Ignore (and what to do instead)". Instead of "Keeping Your Options Open", the article suggests "Commit to Something".

Commitment is tough. Whether in a career or a relationship, you have to decide beforehand what you find important. As I mentioned earlier, some people know what they want in a career very early. Some people also marry their high school sweetheart and stay committed forever. They found what they wanted and stuck with it through thick and thin.

While sticking with jobs hasn't always been an option for me, thanks to contracting, lay offs, and part-time/internships, here are a few things I have decided are important to me:

  • I need to be part of a bigger something. This is why the Tampa Bay Seminole Club is so important to me.

  • I need to be in a fast-pace place where information comes quickly and thinking on my feet is valued.

  • I would like to be somewhere where international issues are discussed.

  • I would like to be somewhere where analysis and possibly pattern recognition is important and valued.

  • I would like to know what is going on behind a headline.
And I want a dog.

Based on these qualifications, I am narrowing my career paths. I am reaching to people in different fields to learn what it is like in that field. Sometimes how I think a field might be is nothing like how it is.

I am also shedding different ideas, even if I am qualified to do something. If I can't see myself doing that job 9-5 for the next three to five years, I will turn it down. That's tough to do when I am still trying to make ends meet. It's like hooking up with someone just because you are lonely or because it's been a while. Both sides have to be honest, or it might end up awkward.

I still have a lot of work to do until I'm where I want to be. I need to be open to still learning and growing. But at the same time, I need to focus on what I want to do, or at least the two or three major options that interest me the most.

I'm a little worried, but a lot excited. Instability can be scary and sometimes I do feel like I am falling behind my peers, but I have to remember, I'm in a lot better shape than I was last year.

Monday, July 17, 2017

My letter to late Mets pitcher Anthony Young

A few weeks ago, former New York Mets pitcher Anthony Young passed away. Several baseball websites discussed his death and career, from Fangraphs and their statistical analysis to Faith and Fear in Flushing and their insightful look at emotional connections to Mets players, times, and spaces.

Anthony Young was unique. He played at the top level of Major League Baseball but held a record no player should ever want - most consecutive losing decisions. Young lost 27 games in a row from 1992 to 1993. His career record was 5-35. Based on that, Anthony Young was one of the worst pitchers in Major League history.

But AY's personality, determination, and grace under the circumstances never showed signs of a loser. Who AY was helped show people that losing in baseball was far too subjective. A player could do well, but throw one misplaced pitch, could be branded a loser.

Baseball, like life, is rarely fair.

Personally, Anthony Young was one of my favorite players in the early 1990s. Not only because he pitched for the Mets and I was a Mets fan, but on a human level, I related to AY.

I was never a born winner. Especially athletically. I was typically on the Little League teams that struggled to win one game a year. For several Little League years, I was a pitcher, and struggled not to get upset when a teammate threw to a wrong base or failed to catch a fly ball. I might not have been an all-star, but I always thought I deserved a little better.

Following my Little League years, I played countless games of pickup baseball on my block. Mostly against my friend from the adjacent subdevelopment. We used a tennis ball, a pitchback for a backstop, and automatics to determine the type of hit - weak groundballs were automatic outs, flyballs past a light pole were a home run. The end of my block was our field and we had a mutual understanding of the ground rules.

There were no fielders and no teammates to point the finger at. I pitched and I hit. If I did neither well, I lost.

I lost often.

(From what I hear, kids today don't play street baseball like this any more. Of course, there is video game addiction, but beside that, kids are told not to pitch as often as I did. Maybe I burnt out too quick. Maybe I could have been a left-handed relief pitcher in the Majors. I guess I will never know.)

My friend and I would play every day all summer. He was stronger and threw harder. I lost at least 50 in a row.

Then, on one lazy summer day, I won. If I remember right, the score was 2 to 1, or maybe 1 to 0. I never scored many runs, but on that day, I had my friend off-balance with a mix of well located average fastballs and decent change-ups. I might have even tried to slip in a bad slider or a forkball.

Regardless of the mix of mediocre offerings, I won. And it made my summer.

With the Mets mired in their own malaise and Anthony Young's win total still stuck on zero, I wrote AY a letter. I told him if could win on the streets of Melbourne, Florida, I was sure his day in the sun in New York City would come eventually.

Being the fan I was, I included an early '90s Topps baseball card and a safe-addressed stamped envelop with my letter. At the end of my letter, I asked AY if he could sign my card and send it back to me. He did.

(Looking back, that seems like an awkward request. Hey, best of luck, I'm rooting for you. Can you sign this card and send it back to me because I sent you best wishes?)

A few weeks after my card arrived, Anthony Young got a win over the Marlins, finally breaking his dubious losing streak. Amidst the voodoo dolls, good luck trinkets, and other knick-knacks AY received from Mets fans with the intent to change his luck, I like to think a letter of encouragement from a fellow struggling pitcher had a small part in helping him remove the zoo from his back.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

A Wrestling Fan’s Review of The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity

Last month, Stageworks Theater in Tampa performed the wrestling themed play "The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity". Written by Kristoffer Diaz and locally directed by Karla Hartley, the play told the story of Macedonio Guerra, aka "The Mace", a technically sound wrestler who "does all the heavy lifting" for THE Wrestling.

Disclaimer: I had an indirect role in Stageworks Tampa's production of The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity. I introduced the cast to local wrestlers who helped them with the nuances of pro wrestling psychology and they facilitated the acquisition of the ring the play was performed in.

Although other local writers saw "Chad Deity" as theater critics (see here and here), I went as a wrestling fan - even wearing my afro wig, as I do to wrestling matches. No matter how much I've watched and talked with wrestlers, I am and will always be just a fan. But that fandom has made me more knowledgeable about wrestling than I am about theater. As a matter of fact, there are many, many, things I am more knowledgeable about than theater. So what follows is, as the title states, a wrestling fan's review.

The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity takes place in a world that is part-present day WWE and part past-stereotype WWF. While theater fans may not know the difference, for wrestling fans, it means Chad Deity is entirely fiction and the storyline is unrealistic, even for wrestling, which hurts the play's overall message.

But I must digress for now, lest I blow the finish.

While theater fans might feel more comfortable with the social message Diaz was attempting to convey in "Chad Deity", wrestling fans are surely more familiar with the wrestling side of the play, particularly the interaction with the cast. By it's nature, wrestling is highly interactive athletic theater, where athlete action draws crowd reaction which then may drive more athlete action. One of the marks of a good wrestling match is how "in to it" the crowd is.

In "Chad Deity", the theater crowd becomes part of the show. They are told to suspend belief at certain points and cheer and boo as if they are at a wrestling show when the play's action is the wrestling matches. When the cast breaks kayfabe and speaks out of their wrestling character and in the voice of their play character, the audience breaks kayfabe as well - laughing, gasping, or clapping for the words or actions of Macedonio Guerra, and not "The Mace". They act as a typical audience to a performance would.

That dynamic makes The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Diety very unique. However, it brings to mind situations where wrestling crowds assume another level of fan consciousness. Wrestling crowds can either cheer along with the storyline - cheer the good guy or boo the bad guy - or they cheer the performance the wrestlers are putting on. Personally, I am not a fan of "this is awesome" or "this is wrestling" chants, but many fans feel the need to opine about the overall performance of the match, not the characters or situations in the ring.

While the audience watching The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity plays two roles: wrestling show crowd and play audience, some of the cast members are playing three or more roles. The actors portraying Macedonio Guerra and Vigneshwar Paduar play these characters and then assume the in-ring personas of "The Mace" and "Che Chavez Castro" for Guerra and "VP" and "The Fundamentalist" for Paduar. Their awareness of their wrestling character while in performance character gives the play a very "Tropic Thunder" feel. The performers are a dude playing a dude (Guerra) playing another dude (The Mace) then becoming another dude (Castro).

Thank goodness the play is written well enough to make sense of that.

That brings me back to the end of the play. The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity concludes on a very inconclusive note, at least for a wrestling fan. In the final scene, we are told Macedonio Guerra dumped his heart out to an unseen wrestling crowd through a personal in-ring/in-event promo. After he finishes, crowd favorite Chad Deity enters the ring and powerbombs Guerra. The impression the theater audience gets is that Macedonio was put back in his place and Chad Deity - wrestling hero - would continue to be cheered.

But that doesn't make sense to a wrestling fan. Modern day wrestling fans would react as VP's neophyte girlfriend does: they would assume Deity is now playing the "corporate" heel role, holding down the hopes and dreams of a plucky, talented, aspiring, and honest wrestler. Modern wrestling fans admire honesty and hard work in their good guys. Bad guys cheat, lie, and do what they need to keep power.

In order to succeed in the "Chad Deity" world, The Mace would need to assume the Daniel Bryan role, someone management believes is unfit for the title, but the fans root for. I would be curious what Kristoffer Diaz believes happens in the next wrestling event. While theater fans leave the performance thinking Macedonio Guerra did not create his own story, wrestling fans know wrestling is perpetual, every moment can be incorporated into a storyline, and good eventually defeats evil, no matter what race, creed, or gender the good people are.

Modern fans want fairness to boil to the top of wrestling's scripted reality.

For a wrestling fan, Macedonio Guerra did create  his own story through the sacrifice of VP: The Mace became a face, and he will eventually have his own elaborate entrance. "The Fundamentalist" as a character becomes a prop not for THE Wrestling to reaffirm Chad Deity's All-American greatness, but for The Mace to break the fourth wall a la CM Punk in his famous promo rejecting WWE and Vince McMahon.

The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity isn't a perfect wrestling story. It is not The Wrestler. Chad Deity relies too much on past stereotypes of what wrestling was juxtaposed into the modern appearance of pro wrestling's corporate side while not understanding the social norms of modern professional wrestling. Much of this can be attributed to the fact that The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity was first performed in 2010, and so much of wrestling's progressiveness has occurred in the last five years.

But the performance of The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, when considered in its own alternate reality of wrestling's already alternate reality, is a fun experience. I would highly recommend checking it out if it is performed in your city.

Friday, June 16, 2017

I made a good tweet

I've been on twitter for about eight years. I have a little over 1,000 followers. I'm not a big time social media star. I tweet about the wide array of things that appeal to me or catch my eye.

A few people respond to me regularly, and I reply back to them.

Only three times in eight years have my tweets been circulated to the masses.

The first was a picture of me in an R2D2 costume from 1982. I tweeted that to @StarWars and they retweeted it to the rest of the galaxy.

The second time my tweet was heavily circulated was when I posted a Chuck D song about Muhammad Ali after Muhammad Ali died. Chuck D retweeted that to all the Public Enemy fans worldwide.

So it usually takes someone popular to push my tweets to the masses.

Last week, however, after New Jersey Governor Chris Christie called President Trump's tone to the ex-FBI director "normal New York City conversation", I posted this:

As you can see, a lot of people interacted with this post. I was shocked. Granted, it's not millions or thousands and I am not asking for free nuggets, but nearly 200 retweets and over 600 likes for a joke isn't bad.

My theory is that the tweet jumped in popularity when Twitter posted it on their top tweets for the topic. If you went to the twitter home page, there was a headline of "New York City conversation". Clicking the headline brought you to dozens and dozens of tweets about the subject. As mine was pretty popular, it rose to the top, which then made it more popular. Twitter is weird like that.

So that's my most popular tweet to date. Mr. Met engaging in a normal New York City conversation.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

5 Job Hunting Lessons Learned from Stand Up Comedy

Hello, Cleveland. It’s a pleasure to be here. My name is Michael Lortz and I was unemployed for over two years. Fortunately, I performed stand-up comedy during that time, which didn’t help me find a job or pay my bills, but it did help me find humor in my predicament.

When I started comedy, I read books on stand-up, I watched videos, and I tried to study my way into being funny. Some provided interesting insight and basic guidelines – the rule of three, for example – but most articles on “how to be funny” are clickbait to build someone’s reputation and provide them a byline on another website.

To use the comic parlance, it is “hack” material.

When I was unemployed, I read articles on finding a job, I watched videos, and I tried to study my way into employment. Some provided interesting insight and basic guidelines – use a professional email address, for example – but most articles on “how to find a job” are clickbait to build someone’s reputation and provide them a byline on another website.

See what I did there? More than everything you need to know about finding a job has been written, re-written, and recycled even within the same articles.

In comedy, the community tends to police itself when it comes to original material. The police have long been absent from the cottage industry of online job advice.

The problem wouldn’t be so bad if the articles gave good advice. But they don’t. Too often, the advice is blandly generic, like sugar-free, low-carb, gluten-reduced vanilla frozen yogurt. Or the advice contradicts other advice columns.
  • Be creative in a resume / Don’t be creative in a resume

  • Start with an objective / Start with a summary of experience

  • Don’t go over one page / Don’t go over two pages

  • Use your real name / Call yourself “Mark Zuckerberg”

It is enough to make a job seeker want to walk out mid-show.

Ironically, the best advice I learned in my job hunt came from comedy. Five simple ideas applicable to any job, any resume, and any career.

1. Know Your Audience

This is extremely important. Know who you are speaking in front of. Is it a Jeff Foxworthy audience or a Katt Williams audience? Is it an older crowd or a younger crowd? Maybe it’s an office party. Maybe you are on stage in room full of drunken Hell’s Angels.

The same applies in the job hunt. Are you trying to impress a Fortune 500 financial institution? If so, the Slayer shirt and nose ring might not be the way to go. A suit and tie might be a better option. But if you have an interview with a hip upstart app developer, they might be impressed with your “Han Shot, Period” shirt.

Likewise with your resume. Will it be read by a creative audience? Or will it be seen by recruiters and hiring managers who wouldn’t know creativity if it tagged them on LinkedIn?

2. Know Yourself

This is also very important.

I’m not an astronaut. I’m not an NBA superstar. I’m also not a truck driver nor a lawyer. These might seem like simple facts, but I would never apply for these positions, no matter how cool they are. I’d have no chance of landing them.

If I wanted a job that I am currently not qualified for, there are some skills I could learn quickly – like learning a new comedy bit. But learning takes time. It is an investment. Some things, such as me being an astronaut, will never happen. I know I am too far behind the career curve to reach the moon. So even if there was an opening at NASA or Space-X for astronauts, applying would be a waste of my time.

3. Know Your Peers and Meet Those Who Have Achieved More Than You

Few comics ever make it completely on their own. Most arise from the bowels of the open mic circuit with the help of their peers and support from more established comics who take them under their wing and give them a hand or a leg up.

Job seekers should also network, know their peers, and look for advice from those who are where they aspire to be. Not everyone is a good lead, a good connection, or a good source of information. Some people are more helpful than others. Some people are jerks.

Ideally, those in whatever field you want to be in will help you better craft a resume or give you specific job seeking advice. That’s ideal if you ever want to stop reading generic career advice columns.

4. Use What You Know to Fill the Needs of Your Audience

Not everyone is LeBron James. As a matter of fact, only LeBron James is LeBron James. But LeBron is just a small spoke in a very big wheel that is the business of the NBA. LeBron doesn’t work in accounting, he doesn’t work in stadium operations, and he is not in janitorial services. He works in the basketball department. He even wears a uniform with his name on it, just like millions of other workers in America.

If LeBron applied for an accounting position, he might not get the job. Likewise if he applied to be an astronaut or a truck driver. But when he filed for the NBA draft and applied for the position of basketball player, he played to his strengths and experience. Basketball is LeBron’s talent.

You should approach job seeking like Jay-Z. You have to sling your talent like rocks. Hustle to sell your skills to someone who can use them so you can get paid, pay your rent, and live. The better reputation you develop, the better the chances your skills find a home so you can afford a home.

You may be tempted to stretch your skills to fit a role that barely fits you, especially when your job search seems endless. But just because LeBron James scores points, doesn’t mean he should apply to operate the scoreboard.

5. Not All Advice is Created Equal

Every comic has friends who say “I have a joke for you …” or “You should write a joke about this.”.

Good advice when people don’t understand your direction is like finding a needle in a haystack, or job on, whichever you prefer. Likewise, far too many job seeking gurus have equally irrelevant advice. The biggest difference is that job gurus should know better. Unfortunately, bad advice is their job.

In the online content business, it is quantity over quality. People write just to get bylines, credits, and page views. Most career columnists are daft with the fads, while piddily with the particulars. How are they going to help you in your job seeking journey if they are trying to appeal to the magic god of page views and ad revenue?

Speaking of, here I am hoping to get page views on an advice column warning about other advice columns. I think that’s pretty funny.

(This post was originally published on my LinkedIn page.)

Monday, April 17, 2017

Understanding Women - The Amazing Video

A little over a year ago, I had an interesting conversation with a female friend. Over the course of an hour, she discussed two guys: one, a male friend who was acting clingy and the other, her boyfriend who was acting like an asshole.

After our conversation, it dawned on me that these two male behaviors are on far ends of the same spectrum and she, a normal woman, was turned off by both. So I drew a line. Then I filled in the rest of the chart. Before I knew it, I had a model that could be used to predict behavior - to an extent, of course.

I like to say this chart is in the same school as the Hot/Crazy Matrix that took the internet by storm a few years ago, but it is a different class.

After I memorized it, I showed this chart to several female friends, bartenders, and servers. They were all impressed. Which made me think I was on to something.

Unfortunately, I drew it out for the woman who inspired it after we spent a day drinking. Telling her why I drew it didn't sit very well with her. Sorry to say it might be one of the reasons we aren't friends anymore. But enough of that story ...

Ladies and Gentlemen, I bring to you, after months of tinkering and designing it just right, "Understanding Women" (aka "The Guy's Guide to a Woman's Interest").

Please let me know what you think!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Work or write: The Creative Conundrum

A few weeks ago, there was a huge tiff in the online creative writing community. According to reports, well-known author Diana Gabaldon advised aspiring writers not to major in English. In response to a tweet asking her advice on the career path of an author, the author of the Outlander series wrote:
English major = “Want fries with that?” . Pick something that will give you enough money to write what you want.

— Diana Gabaldon (@Writer_DG)
Gabalbon's comment spurred all sorts of hubbub among writers. From reports, it also offended some food service workers. So as someone who worked at McDonalds, then years later received degree in English/Creative Writing from an award winning and highly acclaimed university program, here are my two cents:

Even without the first sentence, Gabaldon is 100% correct. Majoring in English or Creative Writing is a useless endeavor if one aspires to be a writer. Writers write. They write on napkins, on scrap paper, and on the back of receipts. They write when inspiration hits them. They don't need to go to school for that.

Writers without degrees can still be self-published, freelance, submit to publishers, and network like hell. Go to book fairs. Meet writers, publishers, and literary agents. Organize writers' groups. Use local/social media to your advantage. Work the field to get your name out there. It is difficult to do, but it is no different than any local rock band, spoken word poet, or underground hip-hop artist.

While most creative people said their feelings were hurt by Gabaldon's comments, but they would survive, even if it meant not reading her work anymore, one reply really stuck in my craw. It was personally insulting and to use the modern parlance, I was almost "offended".

Tim Chevalier, aka "@fatneckbeardguy" wrote a long diatribe on twitter about how his lifelong dream of being a writer was crushed by the heavy weight of becoming a computer programmer, a career choice he never wanted.

It is over 1,000 words of the biggest load of whining and bullshit I have ever read.
I have a computer science degree and thus all the money I want and no emotional energy left after work for writing. If I'd majored in English (like 13-year-old me wanted) I wouldn't have gone down the path of lots of money and spiritual/artistic vacuity.
This is not his career's fault. It is his, and his alone. He let the weight of his job crush his creativity. Don't blame the game, blame the player. He lost the will to create.

I've worked and created on the side for over 10 years. While in Afghanistan, I worked 15 hours a day over 8,000 miles from home in a warzone. I missed my family and friends and I was doing the most stressful work of my life. But I still found the time to write over 200 pages of my first novel in that year. Why? Because I needed to. Writing was my escape. I didn't watch movies or go to the gym. I wrote. I wrote to escape. I wrote to create my own world.  For an hour or two every night, I would be in the world of my characters.

So the bullshit that a job as a computer programmer leaves someone with no emotional energy to write is an excuse. That's all it is, a flimsy cop-out. You write when you feel the need to. If you don't have a passion for it, then it's not your job's fault. It's yours.

Chevalier then goes on a tangent about getting trapped in the working world.
Anyway, once you get into industry, you realize the real day-to-day work isn't much fun, or that there are fun things about it but not the ones you anticipated, and a whole lot of soul-sucking baggage that's the price of both the fun and the money, but by then the money has you trapped.
More bullshit. Sure, paying bills sucks and if you have a passion for a big house and a fancy car, you might have to work some 12-hour days. That's life. But that doesn't mean you can't still create. Money doesn't trap you. A job doesn't even trap you. Throughout every job I've had - from military deployments to 9-to-5 daily grinds - I wrote. I made youtube videos. I performed comedy. I ran around town with an afro wig. I found time.

Then there is this beautiful nugget of self-defeatism - an admission Chevalier gave up.
We -- as in, we adults who've had our dreams beaten out of us -- terrorize kids with a lot of fear-mongering about starving artists and starving musicians. The truth is that artists and musicians have always found ways to survive in a world hostile to art, so long as they're lucky enough to get taught that the shame of not being affluent must be avoided at all costs.
You can be affluent and creative at the same time. It is entirely possible. You can be Bruce Wayne during the day and Batman at night. You can work and do open-mics. You can freelance for newspapers. You can stop at Starbucks on the way home and write a page of poetry in a notebook.
So while part of me knows it's not too late, part of me is too busy grieving over all the time I lost to be able to make a new plan.
By the end of his post, with its whiny story about being unable to read Bruce Springsteen's autobiography, I didn't know whether Chevalier was playing his readers, was this sad, or was trying to make up for lost writing time by piling on the melodrama.
What you do want is time to spend doing the work that makes you feel whole.
Again, I wrote fiction and comedy in a warzone because I mentally needed to.

But in case I am a bad example for Chevalier - perhaps my burning desire to create is superhuman and beyond his capacity - here is another example of someone who toiled all day and then used his spare time to create:

In the early 20th century, there was a young patent officer in Germany who was married with a child. He worked 8 hours a day examining inventions for patentability. Then he went home and he wrote. He claimed his life was divided into 8 hours of working, 8 hours of writing, and 8 hours of sleeping.

According to one source:
Even the hours he had to keep at the patent office worked against him. By the time he got off for the day, the one science library in Bern was usually closed. How would he have a chance if he couldn't even stay up to date with the latest findings? When he did have a few free moments during the day, he would scribble on sheets he kept in one drawer of his desk—which he jokingly called his department of theoretical physics.
That writer was Albert Einstein, perhaps the smartest man of our time. Einstein eventually wrote his findings, submitted them, and was published in the esteemed scientific journals of the day. The rest is history.

Here is advice for Chevalier and all others who have crumbled under the weight of their own creative regret: Instead of complaining, challenge yourself. Sign up for Nanowrimo. Write 1,000 words a night. Write 100 words a night. Write a haiku. Close twitter, close facebook, and write.

From the rest of Chevalier's tweets, I'm thinking he might reply with "here is a straight, capitalist-supporting, white man telling people how to think and live". If so, that's another cop-out and an attempt to lean on a victim complex.

But as an English major whose desire to never again work at McDonalds led me to national security jobs and graduate schools, and someone who still wrote a novel, composed thousands of blog posts, freelanced for newspapers, and performed stand-up comedy, I have skin in this debate.

To sum, majoring in English/Creative Writing isn't the smartest thing to do if you want to write. It's not even the smartest thing to do if you want to make money creating. Applying for jobs with an English degree requires explanation how you can take those skills and apply them. Recruiters and hiring managers are not usually smart enough to derive useful skills from unconventional backgrounds. Hence, they usually pass on resumes that require exposition. Majoring in something tangible - media, marketing, or public relations all have writing elements - will catch the attention of hiring managers and recruiters.

To college students everywhere, make your future job hunt and life easier, keep English/Creative Writing as a minor and write and promote your writing in your spare time, but major in something more tangible.

To Tim Chevalier, I hope you find the time to one day reach your dreams. Cheers.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Review of Hagan Lee's 2nd Saturday 3 year anniversary

17098421_10154159192481415_8117802688896564590_nSince I've been back in the Tampa Bay area, I haven't had much of a chance to get out and see live music. The last few months have been full of getting adjusted and catching up. But I've been slowly trying to get back into the groove and supporting the local scenes.

Like most of the region, the Tampa Bay hip-hop community is often divided by the geographic expanse of the bay. Performers and fans usually don't venture across the bridges to see local shows. Unless it is a national act, it takes effort to pull people across the water.

But St Pete hip-hop artist Hagan Lee specializes in bridging the divide.

For the last three years, Hagan Lee has MC'ed 2nd Saturday, a hip hop show at Fubar, a bar on Central Avenue in St Petersburg. Surrounded by tattoo parlors, boutique small businesses, and other dive bars, Fubar is a small venue that hosts an eclectic array of music, from hip-hop to dubstep to metal. Whatever people enjoy while drinking beer, Fubar will have on stage.

That eclecticism makes Fubar the perfect place to see unfiltered underground hip-hop. There are few places left to see raw music of any kind, where the stage is shared by experienced artists staying in touch with the scene and young artists trying to break in. While it might be easier for a venue to book a DJ to keep known hits spinning, it is nights such as 2nd Saturday that keep scenes alive and foster creativity, giving a voice and identity to communities.

2nd Saturday's 3rd anniversary was a perfect example of an underground scene at its best.

A bit of a disclaimer: I have known Hagan Lee and a majority of the performers on the bill for years. Hagan is friends with several of my FSU alumni friends and many of my local hip-hop friends. So my presence was to not only support a scene, but to support a friend doing his thing. I wouldn't nor shouldn't expect people to ever support my creative work if I never support them. We should all support each other no matter our interests.

Although the flyer said 9pm, I arrived shortly after 10pm. I am not sure if I missed an opening act. The first person I saw on stage besides the ever-present DJ Yeti was Marcel P. Black, an MC from Baton Rogue, Louisiana. Marcel is a social conscious MC with southern hip-hop sound similar to more well known acts Bun B or Killer Mike. Marcel only performed a few songs but between told the audience a several facts about his life, such as that he came from a church family, went down the wrong path, decided to do right for his wife and kids, and now uses hip-hop in his work as a guidance counselor.

That's a strong backstory and a great example of using the language of a culture for the right reasons.

After Marcel P. Black was Aftermarket, a local duo of very lyrically talented MCs. I am usually cautious of white people in traditionally African-American music as they often look like they are trying too hard, but FLUent and KEN The Rapper looked perfectly at ease spitting complex rhymes at rapid speed. Coincidentally, earlier in the day I listened to Fu-Schnickens and wondered what happened to fast rhyming in hip-hop. I forgot what was once a staple to hip-hop curiosities is alive and well in the works of Tech-9, RA the Rugged Man, and Eminem, the latter of which seemed to heavily influence the members of Aftermarket. While not as depressingly tormented as Slim Shady, Aftermarket brought a complex rhyme style similar to many of the members of the Slaughterhouse collective.

My only small gripe with them is as a group, they are hard to find online. "Aftermarket" is not a very search friendly name, even if you put "hip-hop" after it.

In the break after Aftermarket, I slipped out of Fubar to buy some very tasty tacos from a curbside vendor outside the club. This isn't a food review, but those were some good tacos.

Following Aftermarket was Queen of Ex, a female MC with a lot of power to her rhymes. Queen of Ex brought a drummer on stage to accent her performance. Although she has been around the local scene for a while, this was the first time I had seen Queen of Ex perform. She reminded me of MC Lyte, with a strong NY hip-hop presence that controlled the stage and the audience.

After Queen of Ex was Dynasty, perhaps the most acclaimed MC in all of Tampa Bay. Reviews of Dynasty's music are posted all over Tampa Bay music media, so allow me to get personal for a moment. I grew up listening to an era of hip-hop that pushed me, a white kid from suburbia, to aspire for more. It was Nas's "The World is Yours" and Biggie's "Juicy" that pushed me to get out of my comfort zone, not settle for average, and keep going. Now one of my current favorites is Dynasty.

In the fall/winter of 2016, I was staying with family in a spare bedroom, on a mattress way too small for me, sending my resume to several job leads, talking to hiring managers, and driving back and forth across Florida to finish grad school. Often the soundtrack of my journey would be Dynasty's albums. Songs such as "Somebody Told Me" and lines in other songs such as "I've been doing it so long and I'm still aspiring" made me feel all the work I was putting in would eventually lead to an opportunity I wanted.

It's interesting knowing someone personally whose work inspires me. I want to say "Thank you" but at the same time say "What's up? How are you? What's new?" and keep it totally cool.

I know I am not the only person rocking with Dynasty, as when she was on stage Fubar suddenly became crowded with people there to see her set.

Following Dynasty was Aja Lorraine, a soulful singer with incredible talent. Aja might be one of the most vocally talented performers in Tampa Bay. And perhaps the most sultry. There are not many women with her vocal power who also don't mind dropping a few f-words and innuendos in the middle of her song. And when paired with husband rapper Hyfa Tha Prospect, they have an almost reverse LL Cool J "Doin It" vibe.

Lastly, was Hagan Lee himself. Hagan did several songs by himself, and others with frequent partner Foul Mowf. Hagan rocked the mic with hard rhymes about life and living in St Pete - an artistic city with both beautiful beaches and public schools known as "Failure Factories", a place with high class rooftop venues overlooking yacht clubs and dingy dark bars such as Fubar.

Hagan Lee brought the best of Tampa Bay's hip-hop community together to celebrate the 3rd anniversary of his 2nd Saturday show. While in the mainstream, hip-hop might be fubar, at Fubar underground hip-hop is alive and well.