Author Archives: Michael G. Lortz

Understanding Women – The Amazing Video

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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!

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Work or write: The Creative’s Conundrum

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my-job-is-slowly-crushing-my-soulA 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. https://t.co/MQ52HSzZCl

— 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.

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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.

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What I am reading – March 2017: Insight, Innovation, Tribalism, Media, and Star Wars

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A brief selection of articles I found interesting this month:

My Insights About “What is an Insight?” – LinkedIn post by Craig Fleisher, 2/9/2017

Written by a past professor of mine at USF, Dr. Fleisher provides very interesting insight into insights. Fleisher discusses that too many analysts just provide information, without providing insight. Fleisher defines 6 categories an insight should have: rare, asymmetric, unequal, combinatorial, ephemoral, and clearly communicated. Analysts would be wise to keep these in mind.

The surprising places MLB teams get their information from in the post Moneyball era – CBSSports.com, 3/7/2017

This is a good article by baseball writer RJ Anderson. As data gets easier to acquire, the advantage of having data gets smaller. Baseball teams all have achieved a certain level of statistical knowledge. Now some teams are looking out of the box for insights – especially at contractors and private coders who are manipulating data in their spare time. I especially like the quote on “process data” – data you can use to modify a process. Process data is far more important than data from the results of several processes. Teams are looking for the ability to take apart big processes and tinker on the margins.

Please Don’t Hire a Chief Artificial Intelligence Officer – Harvard Business Review, 3/29/2017

In this article, scientist Kristian J. Hammond writes how companies should not bring in an employee strictly to employ artificial intelligence solutions. AI should be brought in as a solution by people internally working on the problem. This is the “if you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail” dilemma.  AI is the next great solution for business – a younger brother of cloud computing.

Trump taps Kushner to lead a SWAT team to fix government with business ideas – Washington Post, 3/26/2017

Independent from party politics, this is an interesting concept. As I went through my MBA, I often thought about how I would bring what I am learning in innovation and process management into my past career of defense and government work. What Kushner is attempting to do is change processes at the top-most level of government. Government processes and business processes are very different – one works for people and is driven by service, the other is driven by profit and is driven by competition. I am curious what this team will come up with.

Donald Trump and the rise of tribal epistemology – Vox.com, 3/22/2017

This is a must-read. Although a bit biased, Vox details the “alternate universe” that has been created to cater to conservative-minded people. Whereas generations ago, we had only a few channels and shared media inputs, now we have so much media, people can select the channels and platforms they wish to receive news from. What is also happening is people are living in tribal bubbles, not venturing from their reaffirming media channels. When these channels challenge long-standing pillars and accepted rules, the very foundation of society may be at risk. Vox believes old-fashioned media that believes in the rules and pillars are the key to “winning” hearts and minds of enough citizens to keep alternate universes at bay.

What I Learned from Reading the Islamic State’s Propaganda Instruction Manual – Lawfare Blog, 4/2/2017

Charlie Winter of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization writes about the steps ISIS uses to spread propaganda. He breaks down ISIS’s propaganda methodology into 3 steps: present a new reality, counter other media, and launch propaganda “projectiles” that dominate the other side’s conversation. The strategy has definitely worked, especially in their part of the world. Understanding your audience and winning them over is good marketing. If nothing else, ISIS are good marketers.

We examined more than 1,300 journalist killings between 2002 and 2013. Here’s what we learned. – Washington Post, 3/28/2017

No matter your thoughts on “fake news”, “media bias”, or whatever, the freedom to write is perhaps the most important right citizens have. Journalists have a huge role in a free and open society. As this article concludes, the silencing of media leads to increased social oppression. Writers are the bellwethers of freedom.

Star Wars by Other Means: Rogue One and Foreign Policy – AngryStaffOfficer.com, 3/28/2017

I am a huge fan of ASO’s Star Wars analysis. He does a great job of using Star Wars to analyze modern warfare. There is so much to learn about war and social movements in Star Wars. One day, I will teach a course on Star Wars and Warfare and I want ASO to be a guest lecturer.

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Grabbing the Bull by the Business: A Review of the USF MBA Program

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20161213_174710In August 2013, I enrolled in the University of South Florida Master’s of Business Administration program.

On December 10, 2016, I graduated.

I did this to learn about business. I did not do this for another frame on my wall. I did this to learn. Getting a good grade was nice, but I sought understanding. I sought understanding of what makes business work. I no longer wanted to be just a spoke in the wheel, I wanted to understand the mechanics of the businesses going on around me – from banking to contracting to the small pizza shop on the corner. Since much of our society is commercial, a degree in business would help me understand how that worked.

Prior to graduation, I emailed the Dean of the program with my thoughts on the program. Below is a slightly edited version of my email and a discussion of the achievements and struggles I had in the program.

If by some chance readers find this via a search for the USF MBA program, let me post the disclaimer that my career was very unique prior to the program, so my thoughts on the career impact of the program are viewed through that prism of experiences.

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A little bit about me: I started the MBA program in August 2013. I entered the program with a resume heavy on military intelligence/defense work but with minimal real-world business knowledge. My BA is in English/Creative Writing and my first MA is International Affairs with an emphasis on the Middle East. Both of these degrees were done at FSU.

My goal was to become more hirable to non-military corporations in Tampa and be able to stay in the area. I wanted to diversify my resume and grow my career without worrying about government budget decisions.

I was initially accepted to the program in August 2009, but opted not to register. At the time, I was working for a government contractor on MacDill AFB. It was a good idea I waited, as I was laid off in 2011 and had to go to Afghanistan for a year to find work.

Upon returning from Afghanistan, I had the time and the money to begin my MBA. I was a full-time student from 2013 to 2014, completing all my pre-requisites. Having little background in the numbers side of business, I struggled in Accounting and was absolutely lost in Finance. I thought about dropping out during each of those classes. I had to remind myself that I was smart enough to have one masters degree already, and if I put in the effort and just passed, I can get to the next class.

I learned too late that most of my peers had taken statistics or business calculus – classes I never took. I never also took the GMAT and took the GRE over 10 years earlier.

In my struggles, I had one professor ask me what I was doing in the program with my lack of math background. He provided little assistance.

I want to eventually be capable in Finance and Accounting. I want to understand what a balance sheet is, how to calculate ratios, why they are important, and why Excel is preferred over during the formulas by hand – which I did to better understand what was happening. Perhaps I will look to Kahn Academy or free online MOOCs for assistance.

Although I went from no understanding to a C-level, I was no help to the financial part of my MBA group projects.

The courses I felt like I learned the most in were classes that advanced my strategic thinking – already developed through military experience. Strategic marketing, analyzing case studies, and competitive intelligence were subjects I excelled in. Dr. Craig Fleisher even followed up his course by writing a recommendation on my LinkedIn page.

I also greatly enjoyed Kari Goetz’s Business Improv class. She is also a professor I stay in touch with.

My problem is that leadership, management, and even strategy are not the types of skills that will make me employable without a background in whatever industry I apply to. And when applying to entry level positions, I end up over-educated and overqualified.

I worked two jobs during my time in the MBA program. I was a marketing intern for a government contractor for 3 months – unfortunately they would not bring me on fulltime nor provide any benefits until I graduated. Over a year at $15/hr wasn’t going to help me pay for school. I left that position to help teach political science to Special Forces at MacDill AFB for 6 months. The money I made in that job helped me pay for my final semesters.

Meanwhile, I applied to over 100 local jobs with Citi, Chase, Raymond James, TechData, PwC, Bayshore Solutions, Nielsen, Jabil, and many, many others. I went to the MBA Career Center, USF Career Center, the USF Veterans Dept, and Career Source Tampa Bay for career and employment help. Everyone was great and helped immensely.

One counselor however told me I did things backwards: that I should have gotten an entry level job first, then the MBA. They said most people don’t get their MBA without a career path. No one had told me that before. But I was already well invested in the program.

I recently accepted a position with another government contractor, however no start date has been given. It is a well-paying job, but it is in defense contracting, a field I wanted to get out of. But there is a chance it could greatly help my career.

I know USF takes pride in their ranking and the fact that they are one of a small group of programs with 100% employment 90 days after graduation. If I can’t find a position with the same pay or career advancement before the start date of my accepted position, I might not be employed before March 10 – my 90 day date.

I will also be near broke and wondering if my financial investment in the USF MBA program was worth it. Perhaps I will look for temp, contracting, or consulting opportunities through the holidays.

This might not be the typical email you read from a graduating MBA candidate. I will graduate Dec 10th stronger on market strategy, smarter on management and leadership, and understanding innovation, but barely competent in Finance and Accounting.

I will still stay in touch with the Career Center, Alumni groups, and all the other great networking and advisement avenues USF has to offer. That is one of the best things about the MBA program. I greatly enjoyed my time at USF. I am very proud to have an MBA, even if I am not sure what it will do for me.

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If only economics class was like this:

 

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

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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.

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The original Biggy Smallz

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Way back in the day, I heard rapper extraordinaire, the late Notorious B.I.G., stopped using the name Biggie Smalls because another rapper was using the name. The now-more-famous, but-then-newer Biggie (aka Christopher Wallace) only had a demo, a few freestyles, and the “Party & Bullshit” song to his name. He changed his name to Notorious B.I.G., dropped a few hip-hop classics, and the rest was history.

But who was the first Biggie?

Thank goodness for the internet. What was a 20 year mystery for me was solved in 10 minutes thanks to this great article on The Boom Box.com entitled “Notorious BIG vs Biggy Smallz: This or That?“. According to writer Max Weinstein, the first Biggy (notice the spelling) was a white rapper from LA. He dropped two songs in 1991 then two more in 1993, both before the bigger Biggie released “Ready to Die”. So the name was already taken and songs copywritten under the moniker.

Although he could never make a comeback with the same name, the first Biggy Smallz may have been ahead of his time. This song, from his first single, has a total “Uptown Funk” vibe at the 3:14 mark. Unfortunately, his rhyme style, flow, and cadence scream Kris Kross-era teen rap, which might work if he worked under the Disney umbrella.

In 1994, Biggy Smallz released “Cruisin'”, along a video for the song. This song was released on Bellmark Records, an Los Angeles offshoot of Stax Records and was produced by Johnny J, who later worked with Tupac Shakur. With that credibility, there is no doubt was legit and Biggy had the name first.

In Crusin’, Biggy Smallz not only sounds like Kris Kross, he even looks like a white kid trying to hard to be urban – not even hood, just urban. I knew kids kinda like this, sorta beach bummer, sorta wannabe gangsta, sorta Zack Morris preppy. It is very early 90s and Biggy rocked it well.

This is teen version of Vanilla Ice. And his presence in the hip-hop world made one of the most well-known MCs ever change his name. Not quite the same as a The Quarrymen and The Beatles, but an interesting footnote in music history.

Biggy Smallz other songs were:

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What I’m Reading – February 2017: Business, Innovation, and Media

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A wrap-up of business, innovation, and media articles I found most interesting this month.

An Agenda for the Future of Global Business – Harvard Business Review, 2/27/2017

A very good and insightful look at the future of global businesses following the rejection of globalism by millions of voters worldwide in 2016. This article identifies the benefits of globalism as well as the problems, then poses 7 steps global business leaders should do to better engage the populace. These steps will be difficult as they mean better understanding of corporate-actualization – where a company is in their local and global environment. Shareholders are no longer the most important stakeholder. This is a very difficult balancing act and we will see how corporations progress in the near future.

Why Your Organization Needs a Writing Center – Harvard Business Review, 2/21/2017

This was a great article on improving business communication in organizations. It discusses how some organizations involved writing offices in their structure to help communication. The trick is not to blame, but to improve and make involvement voluntary rather than mandatory. Most people consider themselves good writers, even if they are not. No one wants to be told they are not good communicators, but a writing center can make them and the organization better.

As an occasional writer who has helped several co-workers improve their message, this article spoke to my heart.

In the Data Wasteland – PeterHarlingBlog, 2/17/2017

A very good article on data and analysis. Sometimes data is not complete and the elements where we need to tell the most important stories are where the least amount of data exists. These wastelands of control – if you can measure it, you can control – are often where counter-narratives begin or are rooted. The ability to put something in the grid or on the grid allows control, measurement, and technological advancement. But this advancement means selling innovation and progress to wastelands that are not used to such progress. Here is where tradition and conservatism have the strongest roots.

It is interesting how data, progress, messaging, innovation, and politics are so tightly knit.

Robert Mercer: the big data billionaire waging war on mainstream media – The Guardian, 2/26/2017

This article also discusses data, messaging, and control. It profiles Robert Mercer, billionaire investor of analytic companies and media outlets. By combining the two, Mercer’s organizations know how to push messages to an audience. They are able to game systems, measure outreach and connections, and use tech to influence populations. When these companies become consultants to organizations attempting to lead nations, they are able to strangle opposing voice in mainstream media.

Whereas newspapers and other traditional media took hundreds of years to gain their influence, by capitalizing on data, tech companies – many employing opportunist journalists – are able to get their message out quicker, faster, and through more channels. With attention spans dwindling, tech companies using media have a better chance of influencing than media companies trying to make an impact through traditional outlets.

Investment in Innovation Should Strive to Make the Whole Newsroom “The Lab” – Immerse.news, 2/20/2017

Friend of this site, Sam Ford, writes how many media newsrooms should better improve by incorporating innovation. Stories are being told through different mediums even beyond print, video, or audio. Modern media is not only engaging the audience you have, it is building on new platforms to new audiences. It is about informing and promoting truth. Journalists need to work with creative media personnel to find the best way to express messages. As the bells and whistles of modern media get louder and more distracting, finding an avenue for reporting and messages – and then of course monetizing those avenues – is the biggest challenge.

Unfortunately, media is a moving target. But that is a blessing for companies that might have missed the boat on previous platforms.

WWE’s McMahon changed sports and more — much more – WashingtonTimes.com, 2/14/2017

Vince McMahon has been one of the last century’s biggest media innovators. He took a regional entertainment company, the WWWE, and turned it into a global content corporation. Wrestling is a merely a product for the lifestyle and media the WWE produces. Not every endeavor has worked out for McMahon, but the impact of his product is seen at some many levels of our public discourse.

Wrestling is a show of good and evil, bad guys and good guys, many with bombastic personalities. It influenced Mohammad Ali, who influenced most outspoken sports figures over the last 40 years. The presence of Donald Trump and his cooperation with WWE means pro wrestling’s influence has now entered the political sphere. Whether this is a good thing or not is being argued almost every day.

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Talking with Michael Tillery on The Starting Five Live

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Over the weekend, I had the awesome pleasure of chatting with Michael Tillery of The Starting Five Live online radio show on RapStation.com. Mike is a longtime e-migo whom I have corresponded with for 10 years or so. Mike has been a freelance writer as well who has given me a lot of advice and mentorship on developing my own voice.

These days, Mike hosts The Starting Five Live on RapStation.com, a web platform created by Chuck D of Public Enemy. The Starting Five Live hosts discussions on sports and culture. He has hosted sports legends such as Julius Erving, media personalities such as Jemele Hill, and music artists such as Skyzoo, so it is a definitely honor to be included on that list.

Mike and I spoke a lot about the blogosphere, social media, and then talked about the New York Knicks and the mess between owner James Dolan and Knicks legend Charles Oakley.

Please go check out my discussion with  Michael Tillery. Hopefully Mike will have me on again.

The Starting Five Live 170: The Michael Lortz Interview

 

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Flava in Ya Documentary

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Music documentaries are a favorite of mine. Especially ones of old school hip hop. This one, on Craig Mack, was interesting. Although it focused primarily on Mack’s early days and his relationship with Sean Puffy Combs. I would have liked to see more what happened to Craig between 2000 and 2015, when he was found in a church in South Carolina.

How did he get there? They said Craig was religious, but to disappear and resurface in a small church dropping free style rhymes is a big change. Not everyone does that.

After watching this, I am inspired to refocus on telling the story of Kenny Waters, Tampa’s first hip hop DJ and founder of Digital Underground. Be on the look out for more information on that.

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What I’m Reading – January 2017: Military, Media, Star Wars, and Beer

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A wrap-up of articles I found most interesting this month.

(I promise few if any articles on the new American president.)

Why America is Self-Segregating – Data Society Points, 1/5/2017

I could write a lot about this article. Researcher Danah Boyd explores America’s drift into social segregation by using examples of the military, military contracting, and academia. Boyd postulates that the military is a mixing pot, but contracting has hurt diversity in the defense industry. She also states that college students are being allowed to circumvent easy diversity avenues in colleges, aligning themselves more and more with people like themselves.

Having been in uniform, worked as a contractor, and spent many years in academia, I agree with Boyd’s theory. While the military is diverse, government contracting is anything but. It is a breeding ground for groupthink, where retired military cycle back into the environments they are used to. There is also the conundrum of clearances, where the only way to get one is to have worked for the military. So those former employees are where contract companies look first to fill positions. Have clearance, have job. No matter how inept.

The Right Is Building A New Media “Upside Down” To Tell Trump’s Story – Buzzfeed, 1/23/2017

There has been a lot of discussion recently into how people get their news. Similar to a punk rock revolution, web sites that lean politically right sprung up in the last eight years and began getting followers and readers. These readers amplified their voices to the point that these news organizations now have sway in the media landscape. Their position has only increased with the election of Donald Trump, an admitted opposer of main more traditional outlets.

It is interesting to compare these political writers with the Deadspin and alternative sports bloggers from 10 years ago. They took on ESPN and mainstream sports news. Eventually those bloggers were incorporated into the mainstream sports media. Will that happen to Breitbart and other alternative news stations? What if CNN offered to buy Brietbart?

How the 24-Hour News Cycle Became the Latest Information Security Adversary – TripWire.com, 1/25/17

From the Information Technology realm, this article discusses the need for IT professionals to articulate the seriousness of possible breaches to an uneducated media. With cyber attacks a huge topic of concern, it is important for experts to drive the conversation before uneducated information spreads and panic possibly settles in. It is very difficult to put a panic genie back in the bottle.

20 Questions Smart Security Pros Should Ask About ‘Intelligence’ – Dark Reading, 12/1/2016

Intelligence is important to many organizations. How they gather intelligence varies, however. For Information Security professionals, there are challenges to meet intelligence needs. This article gives a good primer on intelligence questions for information security professionals. Many of these questions are useful for other organizations as well.

A Missing Shade of Gray: Political Will and Waging Something Short of War – War on the Rocks, 1/11/2017

This is a strong essay on the ability of a US president to engage in “less than war”. Phillip Lohaus writes in depth on the mechanisms of US war and the ability of the executive branch to send troops into battle. There are a lot of checks and balances in play even for the smallest deployment. Lohaus discusses the will of the people and the legislative branch to support and give leeway to the president to deploy troops for any mission and for how long.

Guest Post: Stormtrooper Performance in Contemporary Operations – Angry Staff Officer.com, 1/9/2017

I am a huge fan of mashups of my favorite things. And as evident by my Star Wars article index, I am a huge Star Wars fan. So when I see folks discussing military tactics through the lens of Star Wars, I have to read. In this article, an individual named PPTSapper writes about Imperial Officer life living with Stormtroopers. It is a fun read, taking the drama and stresses of our modern military personnel and transposing them into the world of Star Wars.

Star Wars Killed A Universe To Save The Galaxy – FiveThirtyEight.com, 12/16/2016

This article discusses the strategic move by Disney to divide the world of Star Wars. In order to have the room to create new vibrant stories, Lucasfilm had to categorize years of non-movie fiction into a “Legends” bucket. Gone where over 20 years of fan and author created stories and timelines. Lucasfilm kept the remaining stories in the category of Canon. Still, a few years later there are discussions as to what is canon or not.

From Disney’s perspective, it was a smart strategic move. While it upset many fans, Disney knew few if any would be lost forever if the sandbox was reset. The move to kill the “extended universe” did indeed save the Star Wars galaxy. Meanwhile, occasionally certain characters are brought back or nods given to the fans of the EU in new Star Wars material. It may be gone, but it is not forgotten.

Princess Leia’s Hairdo Didn’t Come From a Galaxy Far, Far Away – Global Voices, 1/17/2017

From Global Voices comes an article from Mexico in which a writer praises the iconic bun hairstyle of Princess Leia and notices their similarity to the hairstyle of women during the Mexican Revolution. According to the article, even George Lucas himself admitted to borrowing the look from the soldaderas.

The Women’s March And The Art Of Creative Resistance – Co.Create, 1/23/17

A very interesting look at the cottage industry of creative protest that has sprung up since Donald Trump took office. The speed in which art can be created is much faster than any time in history so artists and other creatives are using this speed to their advantage to promote their views. While these views are anti-Trump, these same creative methodologies could be used for any social movement. They galvanize, inspire, and in some cases, encourage social movement through art.

All-Woman Brewery Brings Craft Beer to Kyrgyzstan – Global Voices, 1/18/2017

A great article on a craft brewery in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Owned by two women, it is become an oasis of good beer in a city not known for its good beer. That it is all-women owned is also unique in the Central Asian country.

This Craft Brewery Infuses Its Beer with the Wu-Tang Clan – Munchies.Vice.com, 12/12/16

I’m not sure how this works, but according to this Vice article, brewers from North Carolina used Wu-Tang Clan songs to “stress out” yeast during the brewing process. This stressing process alters the flavor of the beer. And combined with the skill of the Wu-Tang, this beer must be a Triumph a drink for A Better Tomorrow.

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