How to Write About Racism

June 4, 2020 2:50pm
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I was honestly thinking about just skipping my humor column this week because it’s hard to imagine anything funny when it comes to racism, but last night I hit an unexpected burst of inspiration at around 3am and I ended up coming up with something that will go up tomorrow morning.

I’m not entirely sure how it will be received. It’s definitely not a traditional humor column and more so just has what I thought were some funny quips mixed in with a lot of observation and my own two cents on everything that’s been happening around the country.

Some people will probably think it’s preachy, but that’s ok.

It’s one thing to write about the unique challenges I’ve faced with the family during the COVID-19 lockdown over the last couple of months, but racism and police brutality are very different. In a way, I feel kind of helpless because I’m not sure what I can do besides trying to be a positive voice and donating money to people on the front lines and just listening more.

The other day I was commenting on a Facebook post where a lot of black folks were sharing stories of being harassed by the police, and it made me sad to think that the worst encounter I’ve ever had with the police was almost disgustingly tame by comparison. I was 17 or 18 and had just recently gotten a sports car – a bright red Pontiac Firebird – and I was driving with some friends out in the country in an area that allowed me to have some fun.

We were going a lot faster than the speed limit – probably 85 in a 55, if I had to guess – and eventually we found ourselves behind a cop.

“No big deal,” I thought as only a teenager would. “He can’t pull us over if he’s in front of us!”

Well, the cop pulled into the next gas station we passed and not long after I saw him pulling right back out after us in my rearview mirror.

One friend in the passenger seat may or may not have flipped him the bird as we drove past…

And a couple of miles later he caught up with us and pulled us over, though luckily by then I’d dropped back down to the actual speed limit.

Now here’s the difference – nobody got pulled out of the car. My friend got an offhand comment about his attitude problem, but nothing more. And all I ended up with was a fix-it ticket for driving on bald tires.

Needless to say, reading stories of black guys getting guns pulled on them and thrown to the ground and even just harassed about where they were going when they were just screwing around with their friends like I was is very humbling.

So anyways, tomorrow’s humor column is going to be a little different, but hopefully it makes you think about inequality and how we all need to demand better from each other.

Pay the Writer

September 27, 2019 11:03am
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I’ve really been enjoying this thread by Heidi Moore over on Twitter about writers getting exploited through low rates…

This morning it got me thinking about the days long ago when I ran Just Laugh because some smaller publications are starting to give her pushback for being called out because “they don’t have the budget to afford to pay writers any more.”

And I sort of get that to a point, however that point lies in a time almost 20 years ago when the publishing landscape was much different … and it’s for this same reason why when I tried to relaunch the site a few years ago, I just didn’t have the guts to ask people to write for free anymore…

When I first created Just Laugh back in 1999, I had just graduated from high school and was still living in my Mom’s basement. I worked the same job I had in school that paid me about $9/hour, and I built Just Laugh in my spare time to help distract myself from not having gone off to college right away like the rest of my friends had.

The Internet was still pretty new then, so Adsense and Amazon affiliates and all of these revenue options for small publishers just didn’t exist yet. I don’t know if we all just happened to be in the right mindset at the right time, but when I emailed writers asking to syndicate their work or publish something new for them, it worked for everyone at the time.

In fact, the site always had a slot for a 468×60 banner ad in the header, but it was perpetually filled by either house ads for our various projects or ads for random sites that I liked.

I never made a dime from it, and by the time advertising had become a thing, the site was basically defunct and the only place I ran anything was in our Joke Database which still never made enough to cover the $14.95 a month I spent on hosting.

I actually remember being surprised when I looked at the account years later and found that it had accumulated a couple hundred bucks in it, quite literally by making $1-2 a month for years and years on end! 😯

Anyways, I wanted to share this because I feel like today online publishing is very different.

Today it’s so much easier to build a website, and a following of your own through social media, and even earn financial support whether it’s through ads or merch or directly from fans via sites like Patreon.

Most creators don’t need a publisher anymore, and I can’t tell you the number of times during that attempted relaunch when I would come across writers and artists who I would’ve loved to work with, only to think two things…

  1. But I can’t afford to pay them.
  2. And their following is bigger than mine to the point that they don’t need me anyways!

It’s been a really sore spot as I’ve learned more about publishing in general over these years how lopsided the equation actually is for most creators, and how messed up it is for someone to take the lion’s share of your revenue and also not do as much for your own work as you could just do yourself.

You hear about it all of the time from people on the NYT bestsellers list, and yet people still scramble to make it there despite knowing that getting actual support from a big publisher like JK Rowling or John Green might is the equivalent of winning the lottery.

So it was interesting to read about several smaller publications fighting in support of their lower wages because they were doing the best that they could, and writers were grateful for their voice. 

One actually noted in its “expense report” that their expenses had gone up “because they had to pay for health insurance for their staff” … which is kind of the point that the whole thread is trying to make because a writer shouldn’t have to work for pennies so that their editor can have health insurance!!!

The thing is, I get passion projects. I really do.

Just Laugh was always very much a passion project for me, and I sincerely hope that the other people who helped contribute to what we did looked at it in the same way.

In hindsight, I actually had one squabble with a writer who thought that I was just using his work to sell merch, and despite having only sold I think one single mousepad the entire time, now as an almost-40 writer I can see a little better where he was coming from, and I would’ve been pissed thinking some cocky, 20-something was profiting off of my work and not paying me for it, too!

It’s for that reason why I think that it would be really hard to run a publication like that today because just like any other field, if you can’t afford to pay your writers a decent wage, you don’t deserve to take one yourself, either. Maybe if everyone is onboard with your mission, or it’s a close-knit group chasing a dream, but if you’ve got a budget of any sorts, there’s really no excuse to not be fairly compensating the folks who are literally putting the words on the page for your cause.

To put it another way…


January 18, 2019 10:17am
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And so here we are, some seventeen years since my very first blog post went up back in 2002…

A million words … wow!

This is a number that I’ve been chasing for years – typically whenever I’d hit another groove and get back into blogging every day, I’d think to myself, “This is going to be the big year!”

And then it wasn’t. 😛

2012 was apparently a very good year for blogging when I averaged 1.4 posts per day and 156,606 words total!

Surprisingly, despite occasionally being a bit long winded, my average post length is only 284 words, which just shows that those little posts that you knock out in 15 minutes can really add up over time. 😉

One stat that I found particularly interesting was my most popular tags by word count…

  1. rants – 153,136 (293 posts)
  2. geek stuff – 90,574 (258 posts)
  3. summary posts – 79,726 (130 posts)
  4. creative-type stuff – 79,380 (195 posts)
  5. politics – 75,683 (184 posts)
  6. movies – 71,840 (187 posts)
  7. diet & exercise – 65,736 (161 posts)
  8. dreams – 49,736 (86 posts)
  9. video games – 48,056 (198 posts)
  10. technology – 41,673 (141 posts)

Note: All of these stats come from the WP Word Count plugin by Link Software – the pro version is less than twenty bucks for unlimited sites … I’ve been using it for years and I love it!

One more of interest – looking at the blogging platforms that helped me to write those ONE MILLION words…

  • Fusion PHP (2002) – 9,747 (<1%)
  • LiveJournal (2003 – 2011) – 462,133 (46%)
  • WordPress (2011 – CURRENT) – 528,670 (53%)

It’s just amazing to me to look back over everything that I’ve blogged about over the years – mind you, I don’t really make any money or anything from this site, but it’s immensely valuable to me because it really serves as a journal where I’ve publicly shared so many of the most important moments from my life…

…and of course, plenty of nonsensical, rambling or otherwise just plain weird moments and thoughts and ideas, too!

So what’s next???

The short answer is – I have no idea!

No more than I could’ve predicted any of what got me to this point, anyways. One of my favorite things about my blog is that by not locking in to a particular theme or topic, it frees me to write about anything and everything! One day I might feel inspired to write about video games or a movie that I just saw, and others I might be feeling a bit more nostalgic or want to share vacation photos or even, dare I say, share some thoughts about politics!


One thing I will say is that with my first one million behind me, I hope that this inspires me to write more … you know, so that maybe I can get to two million before I’m ready to retire! 😉

Blogging is something that I really enjoy because it’s personal, and yet it’s a way to share a little bit of me in a medium that I’m very comfortable with considering just how much of an antisocial, introverted hermit that I am. 😛

Over the next million words, I’m looking forward to sharing even more milestones, and ranting about things that bug me, and bragging about my kids, and everything else that has made the last million words so enjoyable. :mrgreen:

Only 998,905 words to go…

on blogging intently…

April 23, 2011 2:21pm
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If it seems like I’ve been blogging a lot more lately, it’s because I have!

Statistically, I’ve posted almost twice as many posts in the last two months as I did in the two before that, and looking further back in history, when you take away all of those Twitter syndication posts, I was really hardly posting anything at all a year ago around this time (at least before April, anyways). So yeah, I’m writing here a lot more these days … what’s the deal with that, anyways?!

Well, a couple of things – the first simply being that I’m a believer that just about any writing is good practice, so this is just another way to help keep me in shape creatively, if you will. Plus, it’s kind of nice to have a place without the structure of my other sites where I can write about whatever I want, be it just random goofy stuff, thoughts of a more personal nature, or even just things that have been going on in my life. I don’t have to worry about whether it really fits with the theme for my other sites or whether it’s too short or too long – my blog here is just kind of a free-for-all for anything else that I feel like throwing down on the screen.

The second is part of a larger effort that will be taking place later on this summer, but in short, I want to make this blog more of something that other people would actually care to read, whereas right now as it stands on LiveJournal there are probably only a handful of people who I know that read in addition to the few random wanderers. But it’s not indexed for search engines, I can’t host any advertising, and frankly I just don’t think it does as good of a job referring people to my other works as it could. So I want to change this – a big part of it will be in moving off of LiveJournal and over onto one of my own domains in a few months, but in the meantime it never hurts to get in the habit of writing more content to be there.

A good example of what I’d like to do is John Scalzi’s blog – John is a science fiction writer who also happens to do a heck of a lot of blogging throughout his workday – a good mix of personal stuff and just the random topics that interest him like writing, science fiction, business and politics. I think he has a goal to post something like 5 posts every single day on top of his regular fiction work, and even though that’s a bit much for me (right now, anyways), I still love the idea of ramping my blog up and really making it a secondary landing pad for people who want to read the things that I have to say. Hopefully it’ll also help to cultivate readers who may be interested into becoming those coveted super fans that have made the difference for many other budding independent creators…

So anyways, that’s the story if anyone is wondering why it seems like I’m a little more consistent with posting lately – although I don’t necessarily have a “schedule,” per se, I am officially keeping track of how often I post on my new writing calendar just to try and remind myself to do it more often. I’m trying to keep a good mix of brief and long-winded posts, as well as incorporate more pictures so that they’re not just one huge block of text after another, and I’m sure my blogging style will continue to evolve as I get more under my belt, too. As I finish this post, I’m seeing that this will officially be blog post #1,770, so at least I already have a somewhat decent foundation to work from.

Happy reading!

February wasn’t exactly the best month for me this year, at least as far as writing is concerned.

Those who enjoy my humor column on a regular basis probably noticed that over the last 5 weeks, it’s been anything but regular, and sure, there was that whole bout with bronchitis that I had to work through at the beginning, but to me it’s still unacceptable because if I had been working ahead of schedule like I should, it wouldn’t have been more than a blip in a blog post and everything would’ve continued to run as usual while I withered away to nothing in bed…

Anyways, I’m trying my best to get everything back on track now, as of tonight I’ve got two on-time columns under my belt for March, and things are starting to look up for the boy. More importantly, through all of the chaos I’ve been trying to figure out how to make things easier for myself going forward, and although I know it sounds stupid, I’m going to spell it out anyways for the sake of saying it … it’s better to get my work done earlier!!!

Now my humor column normally goes up on Fridays. Unfortunately, I have a horrible habit of still pounding away at the keyboard late into the wee hours of the night on Thursdays, if I don’t just give up and admit that it’s going to be late, that is. It’s a bad process, and I’ll openly admit that because it’s also excrutiating in that I typically spend more time pounding my own head into the keyboard than actually using my fingers to make words at that point.

But as for my last two here in March, I actually did a lot better and it’s something that I really want to try and stick to going forward – most of my writing actually got done the previous weekend. I’m not sure if it was more pre-writing that lead to an easier flow or just less stress from not having a deadline looming over my head, but not waiting until Thursday night has been a godsend to making my life a little easier, and on top of that I enjoyed the writing more and frankly, I think that they’ve been a little bit funnier, too! It’s nice not having to settle for one line because you’re just flat out of time, as opposed to having a few days to mull over the final copy in your head before it goes out for the world to see…

It’s definitely one of those things that I want to try to start doing more consistently, not only for the short term to make the writing process easier, but also to make the long term less stressful when I start adding more and more projects that are going to require regular writing on a weekly or even more frequent basis. Maybe it sounds a little bizarre that 10 years in I haven’t managed to figure this out already, but regardless, hopefully I can learn from it and both the readers’ AND the writer’s experience will be better off because of it!

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