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.