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My Thoughts

My Thoughts

The Original (Cringe-Worthy) Idea for Pangaea

Jarrod’s Journal

I just took a look at an old journal where I wrote my first entry about nine years ago. Back then, I was in college, had just finished final exams, and had a positive outlook on the possibilities of my future. I had an idea for a website for submitting music to record labels, and I also shared the original idea for my book, Pangaea. It’s so crazy how extremely different the original book idea was from what it is today. I will share that in a moment, but what’s even more interesting was how freely I wrote back then.

Go ahead and free yourself…

The journal was a way for me to get my thoughts down on paper with no expectations. Today, after having published my first book, I feel the self-imposed pressure to produce another book. This has caused my writing to stiffen. While a personal journal is normally easier to write than a book, regardless, I still felt the thoughts come at a faster pace back then. Now, most of what I write is measured and evaluated before I type anything out. I’m trying to get back to that space of writing with abandon. I think I’m making some strides, but the weight to make something good hasn’t completely lifted. My belief is now that I’ve stepped foot into the world of self-publishing, my mind is adjusting to writing under pressure. My second book has been coming along so slowly, but I know I’ll make it through this eventually.

The original idea for Pangaea

Now, for that original (cringe-worthy) book idea for Pangaea straight from the pages of the first entry in my old journal:

“It’s about people who live in what we call Pangaea – a super-continent where all of the continents of Earth are one. One man tries to separate the continents (via some magical source) and rule the world while my protagonists try to stop him.”

Maybe it’s just me who’s cringing. I am the author after all. But, boy is that bad to me! Nearly everything about that description has changed except the setting. But that also goes to show you that once you have an idea and start working on it, amazing things can happen. What I learned was not to get so bogged down in the details that you get stuck. I even find it hard to come up with what are supposed to be new journal entries on this blog. I wish that lesson stayed with me, because I feel like I’m learning it all over again.

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My Thoughts

Stand for Something

Jarrod’s Journal

It’s 1:00 am, I have to wake at 6, but I cannot go to sleep without purging my busy thoughts. If you watched my story today on Snapchat, Instagram, or Facebook, you saw that I attended a certain event. It was a book launch for author Clay Cane’s Live Through This: Surviving the Intersections of Sexuality, God, and Race. Through the lens of my phone it was just like any normal book launch. The author does a reading, there’s a Q&A, and then a signing. But what you didn’t see (and some of what even I didn’t see) is what made the most impact.

A Book Launch

Picture the scene: after a rapturous reading of a chapter by Cane and an enlightening interview of him hosted by Malcolm Kenyatta, there were a few questions from audience members – the content of which escapes my recollection. The final question had been answered, the audience was happy, the author had done his job, and everyone was ready to get their book signed and go home. But then something happened.

Cane awkwardly asked a member of his team, stationed at the back of the room, if they were still doing this. After getting an answer in the affirmative, he proceeded to make mention of a man who bought twenty of his books and decided to donate the books to the Attic Youth Center, a local community center for LGBT youth in Philadelphia. The thing that made this so strange was that the man was none other than Darryl DePiano, white owner of the club iCandy. I bring his race into it for a reason. For, in late 2016, he was caught on camera calling some of his patrons the n-word. Not to their face, of course. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back regarding race relations within Philly’s LGBT community. To bring it back to tonight, it wasn’t that DePiano bought books to donate that was so odd to me. It was the fact that it needed any acknowledgement at all. After a long conversation about marginalized people within the LGBT community, and a celebration of this Black man’s achievement in publishing this book, it ended in a rousing acknowledgment of a man who used a racial slur. Suddenly, and only for a quick moment, Clay Cane took a back seat at his own event. He even had another gentleman (whom I believe represented the Attic Youth Center in some capacity) come up and make a statement on DePiano’s gesture. This gentleman, caught off guard, continued the awkwardness by basically shrugging and not confirming whether or not the Attic would accept the donation. It may sound like a long, dramatic scene here, but it was only a few minutes long. And while I felt the twinge of the event hitting a bad note, I still clapped along with rest of the audience as Cane announced this as “a good first step”. That was it. I had cast the moment out of my mind, for it was a good first step by a man who needed to make repairs for the damage he’d done. Wasn’t it? One attendee didn’t think so.

The audience broke and we all got ready to line up to get our books signed. Me being my “fearless” self, I had sat in the front row. So, I noticed when journalist Ernest Owens approached the stage. Since the event morphed into a more social atmosphere, I had adopted my protective mode – a way of being that can be described as aloof. Gay Philly has taught me that there’s little value in kindness and common decency. So I expected to make nice with a couple of people I knew, but long ago dropped the expectation that any of them actually cared for my presence. With that in mind, I was happy to see Ernest. He was one person I could always count on for a genuine greeting with a smile and even an inquiry into what was going on in my life. I came up beside him, he saw me, we said “hi” and hugged, but that was it. He wasn’t the same person I had met multiple times at various events around town. Something felt…off. At first, I chalked it up to yet another person whom I thought genuine, but was just indulging me so that I could move along faster. But when I got home, I realized that there was something brewing just beneath the surface.

Reading Between the Lines

I arrived home, undid my button-down, checked my phone for the millionth time that day, and saw that there had been a live video posted by Ernest Owens on Facebook. My first inner reaction is best described as identical to the popular image of Little Women: Atlanta’s Ms. Juicy saying, “Ooh, gurl…”. Owens’ Facebook video was titled Coonery, backstabbing, books, and betrayal. He always has a good Facebook live video, so needless to say, I was ready for the tea. What I didn’t expect was how hot it would be – nor how much it would shake me up.

Owens posted a reaction to something that had just happened at the event. I, of course, missed the drama. Apparently, after I left, Owens was drawn into a conversation with Cane’s team member about the strange shout-out on stage. After being asked his opinion, he stated that it was a bad idea, which caused the conversation to escalate. Owens left and proceeded to record his reactions in two videos: one right after the event (above), and another when he got home (below). He thought accepting money from DePiano and then to announce it on stage was flat-out wrong. I would describe Owens in his video as flabbergasted. While watching, I found myself agreeing with what he said, but something troubled me: Why wasn’t that my reaction? Why hadn’t I seen all the wrong with what had happened on stage? I felt like I shouldn’t have clapped; like I should have had a more disgusted look on my face instead of just momentarily confused.

I didn’t get to a moment of clarity until I watched the second video, where Owens mentioned that Cane’s team member allegedly approached DePiano to buy the twenty copies of books. That’s when I had an “aha moment”. If this is true, DePiano didn’t take any of his own effort and initiative to make a donation of books, but saw it more as a marketing opportunity. And after Owens said “…stand for something,” in his video, this caused me to take a hard look at my own thinking.

Self-Reflection

Just how “woke” am I? It’s a question I’ve been asking myself for some time now. When reading tweets and replies of various serious online discussions, I marvel at the depth of understanding of the nuances of particular situations. I approach Twitter nearly every day with a bit skepticism when I see the torch-and-pitchfork language of a public dragging. Yet, somehow my skepticism changes from to Oh, I see! Then I get into the very bad habit of comparing my level of understanding with others and feeling bad that my wokeness isn’t quite up to snuff. Owens’ videos brought these feelings to the surface again, but instead of feeling bad, this time I got a bit of hope.

I may not immediately get all of the arguments that people make regarding serious racial / political matters, but I’ve learned to keep my mouth closed and ears open to listen and learn. Now, it’s time for me to stand for something. There are some brands that I won’t buy and some clubs I won’t go to, but that resolve has a tendency to waver. An example that comes to mind is: How long can I really avoid _____? Fill in the blank with a brand. What I learned tonight is that the answer should be forever, or until they make huge, serious change in what they promote or how they operate. I have to strengthen my resolve to say no to the things that don’t support my community. If I had that resolve, perhaps I wouldn’t have gotten swept up in the crowd mentality and applaud at the event.

I wouldn’t have come to this realization if Owens didn’t say anything, so I thank him. My hope is that by writing this, I haven’t hurt my relationship with Clay Cane, whom I hope to someday have on The Read. I merely had to set up the story to reveal its impact. Most of all, I hope that whomever reads this takes home the same message I got. When you learn something, you have to act. Don’t watch that film when you know all about the troublesome casting. Don’t go to the restaurant that you know supports causes against your community just because you like their nuggets so much. Resist.

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My ThoughtsTV / Film

Why Marvel’s ‘Black Panther’ Is So Important

Black Panther

Last night, Twitter went crazy. It could only mean one thing. The release of the first trailer for Marvel’s Black Panther.

Managing My Hype

I have been eagerly awaiting some clips from this movie for a while now. Ever since announcements for the director and various actors began rolling out, the hype grew to enormous levels. It scared me, actually. My thinking was, How could anything live up to this amount of hype? I’ve seen this before with videogames. People get hyped about a new entry in a game series that was highly popular long ago, but when it finally comes, it’s less than perfect and people are let down (just look at Doom). It even happens with brand new IPs that seem promising. That’s the lens through which I saw the excitement for this movie. And it was hard to jump on the bandwagon. After last night, however, it looks as though it may just be what everyone is looking for.

What Does Black Panther Represent?

In only two minutes I could see that the visuals were great, it had exciting scenes, and most importantly, a primarily Black cast. This is what I believe so many people find most exciting about this movie. It’s a chance to see themselves as heroes and compelling villains with the magic and money of Hollywood behind it. It’s part of what made people so excited to see Wonder Woman. It’s sad to say, but it’s 2017, and works like this with the quality, care, and attention to characters who are not white males is rare. But they are also welcome. If you are a white male reading this, please don’t misunderstand; we watch and enjoy movies and books centering characters like you all the time. But the fact that Black people and women get to be the central focus for a change gives us hope. Movies like this represent a hope that we’re turning the page on old ways and actually making progress towards accurate, inclusive stories with the appropriate writers and directors behind the scenes. There are no delusions that this will change overnight, but it’s definitely a start.

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My Thoughts

Saving Mental Energy – Jarrod’s Journal

Jarrod’s Journal

I want to do something so that I keep this blog updated, so I decided to go back to old-school style blogging and keep a journal. This comes after pondering what else I could do that wouldn’t require me to think so much. Past blog posts have been so thought out that it keeps the pressure on to create. But I’m writing a book and using my creative energy to create (hopefully) compelling Instagram and Snapchat stories, set up live author interviews, and do my day job (which is basically writing for eight hours straight). I’m not complaining, but I needed a way to feel like I wasn’t neglecting my main site while at the same time not draining myself unnecessarily.

This is where my mind was just four days ago…

I blame Gary Vaynerchuk for this constant state of modification and angst. I’ve been listening to him every day for a while now and while he makes a ton of sense, I have to be aware of what works for me. That’s a hard thing to do because I think I can do it all. In practice, I can’t. Let me explain:

I know I’m capable of putting out good content on a consistent basis on any platform, but because of the sheer number of platforms, I just feel stretched thin. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Website, Email, YouTube – it seems like too much for one person to keep up well and consistently. My frustration has been with hitting the wall of what I have time and energy to do, but for some reason I still persist. I think this is because I believe that there is some strategy out there that will allow me to maintain all of these platforms, write a book, and go to work. I just need to modify my management a little bit more. I have a serious never-give-up mentality that causes me to ignore failures and explore solutions until every stone is turned. Doing a journal like this is just another turning of a stone. Hopefully this will be the stone that allows me to put blogging on an automatic level versus using the serious thought I have used before. I need to save that stuff for the next book!

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My Thoughts

Reaching The Next Steps To Success

success pic

Two instances occurred that taught me what I needed to know about being successful. Mind you, I’m not there yet, but I think I’m gaining the understanding necessary to achieve and hold on to it.

Cracking the Door to Success

A few months ago, I posted a YouTube video (and even wrote a blog post here) about the controversial casting of the movie, Gods of Egypt. At the time, many people were calling for a boycott. My argument was that you could boycott if you wanted, but it wouldn’t mean much because the problem lies in negotiations for funding, not on the director. It wasn’t good that they had whitewashed the characters in the movie, but based on an article I had cited, that was the only way to get the movie made from a funding standpoint. I ended the video saying that if you really just wanted to see the movie, you could, but be a part of the solution by creating or doubly supporting something that was more diverse as well. This isn’t what people wanted to hear.

First, I accept that saying you could see the movie and disagree with whitewashing at the same time is flawed. I made a mistake. Still, because of the freshness of the issue, when I uploaded it to YouTube it quickly became one of my most viewed videos. Most people, I believe understood where I was coming from, but there were a few who disagreed. I woke up two days in a row to negative comments. None of them were completely over the top, but it was enough for me, an already anxious, introverted individual, to feel even more anxious and uneasy, completely throwing off my days. In my 34th entry of King for a Day, I describe it as “cracking the door to success”. The video only had a little over 600 views, but that was more attention than I’d ever received online. And when I received the negative comments, I quickly shut the door by way of deleting the video.

Higher visibility = higher negativity

Let’s fast forward to this past week. I’ve been revamping my Instagram feed and have gotten more and more likes the more consistent I have been. One day, my picture was one of the top posts and two people decided to make some very misinformed / homophobic statements. This put me in the same spot I was last time. I once again had cracked the door open to success. I don’t define success by the amount of likes I get on Instagram, however I think of it as a metaphor for what it would look like on a grander scale. People are going to say mean and nasty things. I was faced, yet again, with the choice of whether to back down and delete it or leave it up. This time, I chose the latter. And I think that shows a bit of growth on my part. I’ve gained a thick enough skin to ignore, delete, block, or whatever I need to do. This time, nobody is getting in the way of my shine.

As I work towards becoming a full-time author, I understand that there are moments like these that are going to prepare me for what’s next. I have no misconceptions that it’s going to be easy. But little by little, I’m readying myself for anything.

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My ThoughtsWriting

Do Authors Need to Write Every Day?

Checklist

Maybe I need to rethink this “write every day” thing. It’s a standard idea among authors, so, when I don’t,  it gives me unnecessary pressure. I have a job, I’m producing daily content on social media for marketing purposes, and I’m trying to work out regularly. Sometimes, I just don’t have the time to write. And if I end up not writing a word in my latest book, I feel bad. It’s like I failed or let myself down. That’s not a good feeling to have because, as a result, I slow down.

This past week, I’ve been trying to focus on getting real with myself. I ponder thoughts like Who am I? What am I capable of?, and Have I done enough? All of those really amount to Am I doing the right thing? and the answer I keep getting is that I am doing just fine. I don’t need to be the guy who stays up until two in the morning and I don’t need to hit all of the objectives on my list every single day. Why? Two answers:

  1. The amount that I want to get done is a lot, and
  2. I’m just not built to run myself ragged day after day.

I do my best and I make sure that I move the ball forward. Progress is key. It may not be as fast as I’d like, but the alternative is to mope about how I can’t do what I need. This feeling can go on for days, as it has this past week. When it does, normal objectives fall through the cracks and sometimes I don’t do anything. If only I celebrated that I did what I can, I could continue getting a lot more done and progressing.

This isn’t an excuse. These are the best of my abilities. If you can stay up until 2:00 AM and wake up at 6:00 AM for work without feeling like a corpse, then that’s what you should do. I guess what I’m trying to say is, don’t be something you’re not, but always work at your best. That’s what I learned this week. And it’s something I’m going to remember moving forward.

So, should authors write every day?

Well, yes, but only if you can. My suggestion would be to not compare yourself to what everyone else is doing. Do as much as you can and be okay with that. You will get the book done. You will meet your objectives. You will be fine. Stop beating yourself up. Your only competition is you. So, do you.

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My ThoughtsTV / Film

Why I Loved The New Power Rangers Movie

Power Rangers Review

Last weekend I finally saw the Power Rangers remake, and boy, did it exceed my expectations.

But first, a story…

I remember play fighting with my younger brother (we were around 6 and 7 years old) at a local high school where my older brother attended. We were under the care of his teenage friend and pretending we were the Power Rangers. I was always the Blue Ranger because blue is my favorite color. Anyway, I playfully threw my little brother head-first into a table. It was made of wood, but the corner of it had been broken leaving behind a jagged spike that pointed sideways. He wasn’t seriously injured, but the middle of his forehead did meet the spike right above his brow. It left behind a small scar that’s visible to this day. than a small scar. We slowed down our play fighting for a while, but with each episode of our favorite show that passed, we got right back into the swing of things.

If you’re a millennial in your late 20 / early 30s, it’s likely that you know all about how karate was one of our daily obsessions. How couldn’t it be with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Karate Kid, and more? The Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers just took it to a whole new level. It was great because it was diverse, had great bad guys, and a story that kept our young minds engaged. However, it wasn’t without its problems.

The Glaring Problems of Old

To its credit, this series was always very diverse. However, the problem laid in its placement of certain diverse characters. The first season featured a black ranger who was Black, and a yellow ranger who was Asian. Even at my young age, I could see the issue there. Yet, it was something nobody talked about because they enjoyed the show so much. Nor did we have Twitter, where I’m pretty sure it would have been blasted.

Aside from that was the very weak story. Keep in mind that I loved this show as a kid, and I had no expectations of Emmy-worthy material, but a look on the wiki page shows just how juvenile and simple the original story was.

Lastly, the characters weren’t entirely deep to begin with. Once the popularity of the show grew, there were some deeper storylines, but nothing like what I saw with the latest movie.

Power Rangers Takes A Turn for the Better

**Spoilers Ahead**

In nearly all aspects, 2017’s Power Rangers takes it up a few notches. There was a shuffling of characters that got rid of the whole racial / color thing, but there was even more. We got a Black, highly intelligent kid on the Autism spectrum (a rarity), an Asian ranger with a big personality, and a LGBT / Latina ranger. Two thumbs up on the inclusion front! A new crop of kids are watching this and any who identify with these characters will get the message that they matter.

I also enjoyed the twists in the story from the original. Zordon and Rita Repulsa fighting on Earth millions of years ago, the reason for the form of the Zords, Rita being the original Green Ranger, and her whole revamped mission added some cohesiveness that was missing in the past. She used to want to conquer Earth, but in this movie, she goes after a crystal (one of many that are found on all planets) that will help her take control of the universe. It’s a grander scheme and it works.

The characters’ stories were deepened from the get-go this time around. Jason and Kimberly’s stories were done the best, I believe. However, no one in the cast felt left behind. I imagine this is a hard thing to accomplish for an ensemble within a two-hour space, but everything was explained just enough to feel for the characters.

Make no mistake. This is still not an award contender, but all of this combined with the feeling of nostalgia made this one of the more enjoyable watches of the spring. I highly recommend you take a step into your past and witness the future of a beloved franchise.

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