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March14,2012

Are We All Sex Addicts Now?

When I was growing up there were two women I thought were more beautiful than any others: Sophia Loren and Raquel Welch. (Well, three if you count my brief affair with Linda Evangelista). I loved old photos of Welch so much I told my mom I wanted to be white. To that she responded, “well, baby, why don’t you pray about it and it will happen.” After praying for whiteness for a few days, I finally gave up on that and satisfied myself by putting a towel over my head to pretend I at least had white girl hair.

I’m fully in love with being black now, but my admiration of Welch’s beauty remains. Although I admit that, up until a few years ago I didn’t know much about the woman who is known for the one photo in the leopard print body suit that sent me over the moon as a kid. A couple days ago I ran across an interview she gave Men’s Health and I thought she said some really interesting things about how explicit our culture has become when it comes to sex:

Raquel Welch: (Laughs.) You’re silly. The guy who did that, Maurice Binder, he also did the title sequence for Barbarella, where Jane Fonda’s floating and taking off her spacesuit. And he did a few of the James Bond title sequences.

MH: With the gun barrel?

Raquel Welch: Yeah, and the women in silhouettes. I think he understood what was sexy and what wasn’t. He knew how to be sexy without being profane about it, and without being too graphic. I’ll be honest, I didn’t really understand it at the time. When we were shooting that opening moment in Fathom, it seemed silly to me. They had to explain it to me, and even then I was like, “Okay, fine, whatever you think.”

MH: Why aren’t more films like that anymore? Are modern audiences just not smart enough to pick up on some well-placed penis symbolism?

Raquel Welch: (Laughs.) Well, I don’t know about that. But I remember Jimmy Coburn once said to me, “You know what’s the sexiest thing of all? A little mystery.” And he was so right about that. When you put it all out there, there’s nothing left to the imagination. So where am I going to participate? I’ve said this before and I still agree with it, the most erogenous zone is the brain. It’s all happening there. Otherwise, it’s just body parts.

MH: You once said that you think sex is overrated. Could you elaborate?

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January17,2012

Linking Back To Your Favorite Blogger — You

Recently, I realized how imperative it is to link back to yourself. I knew it was important but I didn’t realize how much so. In looking back over my analytics on my sports blog, I realized that unlike on this blog, the bulk of my readers are new people. That’s not necessarily a good thing. It’s not bad…cause I have quite a few regular readers. But, it does mean that there is work to be done in terms of reader retention. And while you have people on your site, one of the best things you can do is introduce them to other stuff you’ve written via linking.

In order to do a better job linking back to yourself, you have to either remember what you wrote (which is impossible for me!) or find a way to ensure old posts are at the ready. I’m interested in hearing other people’s techniques for doing this.

Mine?

One, I am cleaning up my tags and categories so that everything becomes easier to find for me and for the reader. Secondly, I am manually listing out every post I’ve ever written and putting them in an Evernote notebook (more on the many wonderful uses of Evernote later) so that I can easily retrieve for linking back (and also for posting on twitter, sending to other web sites etc etc).

So yeah, if I have any readers left here (and analytics SAY I DO!! That there are 1K unique readers who visit this blog every month!) I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and how you’re making sure you’re linking back to your favorite blogger!

 

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May2,2011

10 Years After 9/11, Bin Laden’s Death is Anti Climactic But His Words Still Haunt

With the news that Osama Bin Laden was killed in attack ordered by President Obama, thousands assembled in front of the White House to celebrate the death of the man who orchestrated the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. And here we are 10  years after President Bush simplified global dissatisfaction with America as hate for freedom and told Americans to let the troops worry about the war while they go out and shop and live their lives normally. All with the promise that some day America would find and capture Bin Laden.

Since then, our nation has observed attacks in other countries such as the suicide bombings in London and Mumbai, watched as our troops have come home physically and mentally destroyed from the strains of two wars, and most recently we’ve seen firsthand that America’s noble attempts to protect citizens in countries like Libya can result in tens of thousands of innocent civilian deaths. By now, hopefully, it is clear that real American foreign policy is far less inconsequential than Bush’s innocent tales of taunting the rest of the world with free speech.

In addition, it should also be clear that unlike many other movements and rogue States throughout history, Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda network is among the most organized, decentralized, and well-funded. It is virtually unstoppable. For that reason, Bin Laden’s demise feels like an elephant caught one of a thousand mice. It also feels as though the U.S. is full steam ahead toward Bin Laden’s wish for America to struggle mightily with its own politics.

It was always Bin Laden’s hope that the United States would bear the consequences of its rip shod foreign policy. That America would pay for supporting Israel while Palestinians languished without statehood or arming some rebels and authoritarian regimes while disarming others. Bin Laden sought a full scale collapse of the American economy–he pledged to bankrupt the country.  As America’s politicians play embarrassing games with the debt ceiling and allow more and more American citizens to fall into the kind of abject poverty typically seen in less industrialized nations, you have to wonder how much closer America will come to fulfilling Bin Laden’s wildest fantasies.

With all the turmoil happening around the world and even within the United States, the death of one man, however diabolical, provides little solace or change but much to consider going forward. I hope that this week the media thoughtfully considers the role Bin Laden has played in the direction of American foreign and domestic policy rather than simply framing his death as a signaling change or not.

 

 

 

 

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March16,2011

Build an Audience BEFORE Writing a Book

Michael Hyatt, the head of the Christian publishing house Thomas Nelson Publishing writes one of my favorite blogs. Hands down, no competition, this man is awesome. He knows his stuff—not just about publishing but all the related parts. This week, he blogged in response to a reader question. Essentially, the reader wanted to know why a publisher would ask that a person have a certain number of twitter followers, blog readers, facebook fans et cetera BEFORE getting published.

In other words, why isn’t the book the platform for fame rather than the other way around?

A few months ago, I interviewed author of “Bitch is the New Black” Helena Andrews. I will post the interview this week. The subject of the interview was all of the legwork it takes to get a book sold. No, I’m not talking about the writing and selling your book proposal, I’m talking about the legwork that goes into marketing and selling your book once it’s already published. I think a lot of you will be surprised at how much work goes into the book post-publishing.

One of the biggest things writers who wish to be authors have to realize is that even if you are published by a company and not self-published, the amount of independent public relations, marketing, etc that you will have to do will be pretty extensive on both the front end and the back end. For that reason, there is a need to market yourself in advance as way to attract publisher and public interest.

In his blog post, Hyatt explains to the reader WHY you need to build a platform (audience, credibility and the like) before being published. Please, please, please check it out. He leaves the comments section for readers to explain what they’re doing to build a platform currently.

I’ll discuss what I’m doing here.

I have two books that I’m working on. I won’t mention the topic of the first one because so far I haven’t found anything that’s been written on it and I don’t want to give it away. Although it’s a niche area, I think the book will be useful to others. To be perfectly vague—it’s about being a better employee in a particular position.

The 2nd book I’m slowly working my way up to is a book about Crucial Conversations. I’ve been teaching Crucial Conversations about 6 years now. It’s probably my favorite topic because it applies so broadly to everything we do and every interaction we have. I am a huge fan of James K Van Fleet, who wrote “Conversation Power.” I think EVERYONE should own that book. And I hope to create something just as useful for people.

I have 4 primary ways that I’m building a solid platform and audience so that when my book proposal is done, I have some additional selling points to attract a publisher.

1. Blog Readership: Yes my little dears and dumplings…it’s true: Your eyes, ears, and hearts are all a part of my master plan of being published and paid to provide my opinion. I started this blog August of last year and I average about 7K hits per month. Still a very small blog but the numbers of unique readers are growing as are the numbers of regular readers. A blog can be a very powerful reference point when selling yourself as a speaker, panelist, or author. It can also be a great way to effortlessly collect ideas and language that can be used in a book.

2. Acting as a source—I use Pitchrate.com, reporterconnection.com, and helpareporterout.com to pitch myself as a source for stories to reporters. Basically, journalists and bloggers enter requests for sources for stories, and if I see a request that meets my area of expertise I pitch myself to be the source and hopefully they choose to interview me as part of their story.

3. Published Articles – This is a slower build for me but made more effective when combined with the blog. It takes a while to be known as a writer—especially if you are a serious writer. By “serious” I mean focused on a particular area of expertise and writing for impact rather than controversy. With so many ways to get information, people’s attention is spread out. You may read some really great articles and never even look to see who the author is (this is a bad habit by the way).

I am just now beginning to aggressively pursue being published under the pseudonym I use for this blog and it has reminded me of how hard it is to get going in the beginning. Still, with all that being said, having your work appear in publications is worthy and necessary.

In a previous life, I was an assistant to a best-selling author who’d written 17 books. At least 3 of his books were regularly taught by college professors. Much of my workdays were spent managing his syndication contracts with newspapers all over the world. I learned from that that credibility is a slow build but the grind can pay off.

4. Podcast/You Tube Clips – I’ve recently started a radio/web/podcast show that will allow me to flaunt my speaking skills. As some of you may know, I have a football blog. The show that I’ve recently started is a football show at its core. But I chose a co-host with whom I could delve into any subject with. This is the newest part of my personal communications plan.

Many of you follow me on twitter and I know you were probably waiting for me to name that as a platform that I’m building. I don’t consider twitter to be a selling point for me. Twitter is where I play with different ideas, get feedback and things of that nature. My accounts are not disciplined nor are they focused. I think that a deliberate twitter account makes a better legitimate platform.

So for all of you who are dying to write to get published for the first time, remember that the book is only part of a bigger plan. Building an audience for your work is necessary in the short and long term.

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March1,2011

How Twitlonger, TMI, TallTweets, and Deckly Are Ruining Twitter

Let’s just jump into this. If you tweet me using any service like twitlonger that allows you to use more than 140 characters, I will not read it.  I will not click. I will not clack. I will not skim, scan or glance at it.

Got it?

Twitter allows us to do two things: 1. Engage in complete conversations using its API and 2. Share links to informative content. When you use character extension services, you are violating number 1 and impeding my ability to determine whether or not your tweet belongs under number 2.

Plus it just looks stupid. Ever seen someone try to curse someone out using twitlonger? It goes like this:

First of all, I don’t know who the HELL HE THINKS HE IS. He thinks he’s slick!! WHEN I SEE HIM I’M GONNA http://tmi.me/abcde.

No.

Further, these services make tweeters lazy. The point is to be creative and concise not just with your own tweets but when you modify the tweets of others to add your comment.

Tweet counts matter less, but I once saw someone talking about people who have too many tweets, and when I clicked on their page it was full of twit longer links. Their tweet count probably should have been much higher than it was. Their tweet count was also lowered by the fact that no one was responding to them due to their being almost no content available on their timeline that didn’t require clicking on the outside link.

The worst of the worst? Twitlonger links inside of twitlonger links. I once got curious about a tweet that seemed juicy and clicked on the twitlonger link only to find YET ANOTHER TWITLONGER LINK.

I don’t like disappointment. It was that day I vowed that no matter how juicy a tweet may seem, if it’s preceded by a link to more tweet text I’m not falling for the okie doke.

Scary thought–what if EVERYONE started using extension services? Before tweetdeck released its latest update, there was no way to turn off their silly ass deckly service. Most people I follow do not approve of these services but suddenly my timeline was full of them because people kept forgetting that deckly was on. Imagine an entire timeline full of half-expressed thoughts that may or may not be complete when you click off of the site. How dreadful.

I’m of the mindset that if something would be detrimental for all to use, then probably no one should use it.

Of course the choice to twitlonger is yours, just know that I and many others will not readlonger. Deal?

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February18,2011

The Suspension Letter Twitter Sent UberTwitter and Twydroid

Today twitter suspended both ubertwitter and twydroid today for “policy violations,” but didn’t say why. Well, I got my little brown hands on the letter twitter sent them when the sh** hit the fan.

February 18, 2011

To whom it may concern,

We are sorry to inform you that we have made the very difficult decision to suspend the use of your application by twitter users. As you know, we’ve had a long and successful relationship with you and we’re very sad to see it come to an end. Unfortunately, twitter has strict standards and expectations when it comes to the use of our site and a quick review of your clients’ activity shows a deficiency in meeting them.

Months ago we sent you a warning letter about the amount of time your twitter client spends fully operational. We found that your 99.9% success rate violates our policy of only working half the time. We also found that users of your application were pleased with the aesthetic, were able to block millions of bots and report them to spam without any trouble, and had access to the old, preferred way of retweeting.

While we understand why you’d make such a high quality product available for free to users, we simply cannot tolerate its inconsistency with our way of doing business.

For that reason, use of your application has been suspended indefinitely. We promise not to make the reasons for the suspension public if you don’t.

Thank you for your outstanding commitment to users of twitter, and we hope to work with you again in the future when your standards are low enough not to compete with our officially produced applications.

Warm regards,

Twitter

**This letter is not real. Okay?

Tech Crunch has the real scoop…Twitter says Ubermedia was violating privacy with DMs longer than 140 characters and changing the content of users’ tweets among other sort serious charges. They said the problems have been ongoing since April of 2010. I definitely don’t want Twitter to be like Facebook and say privacy and rules be damned, but I haven’t found a better twitter client for blackberry than uber twitter.

Tweetdeck is my favorite desktop client but not yet available for blackberry. Social Scope is pretty popular and users seem satisfied but it’s private invitation only. I guess the hope is that us ubertwitter folks and twydroid people will whine for a week and then use one of the applications twitter created itself. I’ve used twitter for blackberry and was not impressed.

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February14,2011

Awesome Displays of Journalism–My Favorite Stories from the Past Year

We talk a lot about bad writing and the decline of journalism–and that’s important. But sometimes it’s nice to highlight good journalism.  In fact, it’s more than nice, it’s imperative. There are lots of great writers around and we should share their stories. I think it helps to read a lot of good writing that way you know shitty writing when you see it.

Those “better” writers weave the details of stories together seamlessly. They find and get solid sources and excel at choosing when to use a direct quote and when to paraphrase. They choose good stories and present them in an organized manner successfully playing with chronology and expertly using even the trickiest writing techniques (for example, flashback). And most of all, those better writers make you wish the story would never end. And, in many cases, when the story does end it can leave the reader with a sense of longing.

There were four stories that I read over the past year that immediately came to mind when I decided to write this post. Just to note, I do a lot of reading, so there are definitely other stories besides the following four that impressed me. But again, I remembered the four below right away.

I read a lot of sports stories, and the first two articles I want to highlight are from the world of basketball and football. Yahoo sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski’s account of how the Miami Heat came to sign then Cleveland Cavaliers Forward Lebron James is very compelling. Wojnarowski manages to cover and explain the perspective of almost every party involved with the James trade.  And, for ESPN, Tom Friend writes an exciting piece on former football defensive lineman William “Refrigerator Perry.” This piece was so heart-wrenching and smartly written I had to take two breaks before completion.

The other two pieces also share a common link–both are stories about con men. For the NY Times David Segal profiled Vitaly Borker a Russian owner of an online eyewear store. Not only was Borker selling faux products, he bullied and threatened customers who complained. This piece starts out as a simple profile of a bad businessman, but Segal builds the story slowly and by the time he arrives at Borker’s house you are on pins and needles wondering how the conversation will go, or if Segal should even be there. (I should mention that Borker was eventually arrested as a result of this profile.)

The final story is an old one that I just read about three days ago in The Atlanta Magazine. Its title is “The Debtor” and it profiles a man whose murder may go unsolved due to the amount of enemies he made conning an array of people out of money–including the daughter of late soul singer James Brown, a woman he actually married.

If you read any or all of the stories, be sure to let me know what you think. And do not hesitate to share other well-written pieces and why you loved them.

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February2,2011

Nicki Minaj, Exploitation, and Vibe Magazine’s Unfortunate Juxtaposition

When I’m not tweeting and blogging you can find me hanging out over at The Atlantic. James Fallows, a veteran national correspondent for the magazine, has this great series where he finds unfortunate and/or memorable headline juxtapositions. It’s one of my favorite series on any blog or web site.

I thought of Fallow’s findings when I clicked on a tweeted link to Vibe Magazine–something I don’t think I’ve ever even done before. Basically, the link was asking if Nicki Minaj’s spoof of blackploitation films during her appearance on Saturday Night Live was going “too far.” In other words, did she exploit herself or further promote stereotypes of black women (big booties and loud mouths) in her performance.

Having seen the performance in real time, I thought it was fine. First of all, it was nice to see an actual black woman in an SNL skit. Typically, Keenan plays every black female character, so seeing Nicki in a skit was refreshing by itself. Beyond that, I found the skit harmless and certainly funny in moments.

But that’s neither here nor there because I barely got through Vibe Magazine’s rushed and baiting post before my eye went to the right and felt stirrings of contradiction.

Why discuss whether or not something is exploitative of women when you’re using “thick” black women in bikinis and “Not Safe For Work” photos of black women in the nude, and comparing the best “celebrity boobs” to rack up Adbrite and Glam Media checks? Okay that’s a dumb question, obviously it must be the money.

I don’t expect high quality commentary from celeb gossip sites and magazines, but I have to say there is something fucked up and completely laughable about even attempting to introduce some sort of serious cultural discussion about black womens’ bodies on the main section of a page when you have a live feed from Black Tail on the right.

As Fresh would say, girl, I guess.

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January24,2011

Will Huffington Post’s Global Black Venture Be Epic or Average?

It’s no surprise that web giant Huffington Post is launching a site for blacks. The Washington Post has “The Root,” and NBC has “The Grio,” and HuffPo almost certainly wants in on the kind of ad dollars black audiences can attract. What struck me as both odd and possibly promising were Sheila Johnson’s comments on the venture:

“In all of this digital space, the African-American voice is really falling off the radar screen. We’re on other radar screens, with other digital sites, which is wonderful. But I really wanted to bring the real news, the storytelling — to really bring back the voice of the black community on some relevant news and views. We’re going to be able to fill that void.”

Johnson, who sold Black Entertainment Television to Viacom back in 2000, is the co-backer of Global Black. Based on Johnson’s comments she is either not very familiar with the web or she deliberately exaggerated. The black voice in digital media has not fallen off the radar screen, in fact it has grown exponentially.

Both the number of smaller blog sites and bigger corporate-backed sites that target blacks have increased. Many sites have been mainstays for a long time from the Electronic Urban Report to AOL Black Voices. With other sites like The Loop 21, Post Bourgie, 365politics, RollingOut, Jack and Jill and countless others, to say that the black voice has fallen off the radar screen simply isn’t true. It’s more accurate to say that there’s not a central location that blacks turn to read and discuss issues of relevance. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though.

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December6,2010

Dear Celebrities, Nobody Gives a Damn Whether You Tweet or Not

When I first heard that Alicia Keys and a bunch of other celebrities were giving up social media until they raise 1 million dollars for HIV/AIDS awareness, I thought it was a joke. The reality is no one of age gives a damn if celebrities tweet, facebook, you tube or whatever else they might be doing online. To decide to engage in a “digital death” that can only be revived if people donate money is silly on its face.

In order to inspire people to donate in this manner, they’d have to be “punished” by the “death.” But the reality is celebs leaving social media hurts no one but them. Kim Kardashian, who is also participating in the death, gets paid upwards of $10,000 to tweet about products. Her tweets (and I’m a fan btw) are either product placements or tweets to her sisters and her celebrity friends.

Lady GaGa, who I’m also a fan of, rarely ever tweets and when she does she’s either thanking her fans or promoting some charity or another.

On the bright side, at least I knew GaGa and Kim had twitter pages. These other people? I had no idea.

When it comes to PR campaigns, one of the first things you have to think of is the value of your product. In this case, Alicia Keys’ tweets aren’t providing enough value to her audience that they would clamour to spend money (IN A RECESSION) to get them back.

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