Monthly Archives: January 2021

A watched video never uploads

As promised, I am beginning my series of YouTube videos about history. The first one, which is uploading (currently at 11%) now, is about the Beer Hall Putsch of 1923 and the insurrection in Washington earlier this month. I compare and contrast Germany in the 1920s to America in the 2020s, seeing what lessons can be gleamed from the past. Interesting stuff, at least to me.

The sound is terrible. The lighting is worse. And I get a little flustered at times, as you’ll see, so the narration isn’t as good as a proper YouTuber. It’s also incredibly long. I think about 50 minutes. That is far longer than I intended, but not surprising. Thinking back to university, I remember I always had problems keeping to time when giving presentations. I am eternally grateful for my editors, who help me trim the fat of my pieces. Because God knows there is a lot of fat to be trimmed.

I will get better at YouTube videos. The most important step you take is the first, though, so whether this one is perfect or not is of less consequence than the fact that I actually made a video. I sat down and researched it, found the pictures, recorded the narration. I’m quite pleased with the final product, rough though it may be.

I’ll get better at editing myself, both editing the video and editing the script, as it were. I plan on playing around a little with Microsoft’s Video Editor to see if I can figure out how to use it to make better quality videos. I used Powerpoint for this one, and as you’ll see, it didn’t work as well as I hoped. Still, it did work, so there’s that.

It took well over an hour for the Powerpoint to convert to a video so I could upload to YouTube. Now the video is 12% uploaded, which means it won’t be available until tomorrow. Not much to be done about that, I’m afraid. That’s another lesson learned here: the sheer amount of time that it takes to save, download, and upload these videos means that I should probably plan to do all this the day before I want it to be live.

13% now. YouTube is not meant to be my full-time job, yet today it was. That’s alright. I need to learn, and I learn by doing. It may seem odd that I need to learn, since I’m a writer and not a videographer. Yet, having a presence on YouTube has been deemed necessary by enough writers that I feel I must take note. It was actually Jenna Moreci’s videos which convinced me to bite the bullet, as she talked about branding and building up an audience on various platforms. There is something to be said for that, especially if you are self-publishing like she is. I’m not self-publishing a novel, but I do self-publish on Medium and on this blog, so I reckon the principle is the same.

The thing is, I enjoyed doing this video. It was something different. Something new. I could have just as easily made this a Medium blog, but that wouldn’t have been as fun. My video isn’t sophisticated, but the research is sound and the information is accurate and interesting.

There is no real reason for this blog, other than to pass the time while I wait for this YouTube video to upload. I have already watched EastEnders. I don’t have any outstanding articles to work on (unfortunately). The dog is cuddling with my grandmother, so we can’t play tug.

15% now.

Skylar Baker-Jordan is a freelance writer based in Tennessee. His work has appeared at the Independent, Huff Post UK, Salon, and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @skylarjordan and become a sustainer at www.patreon.com/skylarjordan

Sarah Mary Chadwick’s “Full Mood” is a hauntingly beautiful love song for our time

I get a lot of press releases and pitches from people who want me to write about their work. So when Tristan Scott-Berhends e-mailed me out of the blue with the new music video he directed, I flagged it but didn’t think much about it.

I’d never heard of Tristan or Sarah Mary Chadwick, the artist whose video he directed, before he e-mailed. However, as soon as I clicked on the YouTube video, I knew this was something special. Chadwick’s stripped back, throaty vocals swept over me like an icy Lake Michigan wave, transporting me back to those days in the early ’10s when I first moved to Chicago. I was in my 20s, a whole lot thinner and a lot more fashionable, and the world was my oyster.

“Full Mood” didn’t remind me of any one man I dated. It reminded me of many. The guy who booked a fancy hotel room in the Loop so that we could have a weekend as tourists in our own city. The guy who pinned me against the freezers at the Target on Elston so that he could kiss me. The Viking–oh the Viking, my six-foot-sexy broad-shouldered, blonde haired, blue eyed colleague who is married to a woman now but back then wanted nothing more than me. We would get drunk in North Center before drunkenly stumbling back to his apartment in Roscoe Village, passing out snuggled up on the mattress he had on the floor – what passed for a bed in those days. Well, at least to a broke 20-something in the city.

Scott-Berhend’s video is just as sexy as my memories and no doubt contributed to the walk down memory lane. It tells the love story of two ridiculously attractive men living in New York. Seeing them galavant around the city in Instagram-filtered footage was incredibly nostalgic, if only because I no longer live in the city and even if I did, no one is riding the train or dancing in the streets during the pandemic (or at least, they shouldn’t be). It made me miss those carefree days, when I had fewer wrinkles and fewer pounds and my biggest problem was that I lived off the Blue Line but worked off the Brown Line.

Being young and in love in the city is a magical experience. There’s so much to get up to, so many adventures to be had, and–crucially–someone to have them with. Those days are long gone, at least for me. But oh, how I remember them. Cherish them. Long for them.

As we all lock down for another wave of Covid, “Full Mood” reminds me of what came before, and hopefully what lays on the other side.

Watch the video below:

Skylar Baker-Jordan is a freelance writer based in Tennessee. His work has appeared at the Independent, Huff Post UK, Salon, and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @skylarjordan and become a sustainer at www.patreon.com/skylarjordan

Ramblings on a snow day

Do you ever have those days where you don’t feel like doing anything? I do. I am having one right now. It is just after 10:00 AM here in East Tennessee. I am drinking coffee out of my new coffee mug, which is a 20 ounce Chip from Beauty and the Beast, which you can see here. I love him.

Chip is precious and gives me coffee. I love him.

There is a blanket of snow on the ground, briefly turning our grey mountains into an Alpine paradise. Of course, snow is a Catch-22 in Appalachia. It makes everything beautiful – because frankly the bleakness of barren trees and muddy mountainsides is not beautiful unless you throw a coat of snow on it – but also inaccessible. Still, if it has to be winter, I prefer there be snow.

When I was in high school, we would regularly miss the entire month of January, or nearabouts, due to snow and ice. I lived up a curvy, narrow, one-lane road with traffic that went both ways. You had to pull over to the side to let the other person pass. That might mean your car is mere inches from a 100-food plunge down the mountain. Dangerous at the best of times. Besides, no school bus could make it up a hollow in the snow.

Like I did as a teenager, I am having a bit of a snow day today. Maybe its the weather. Maybe I didn’t get enough sleep. Maybe its the fact that we just lived through an attempted coup. Who can say? All I know is that today is a day for taking it easy.

That doesn’t mean I won’t be doing any work. I’m looking ahead to next week. There’s some research for a piece I want to pitch about the 50th anniversary of All in the Family, a piece I may begin that I’d like to put on Medium on Sunday, and a few other things I’m working on. So, even when I’m not “working,” I’m working. But that’s okay. I enjoy my work.

My goal this year is to make $2000 a month. So far this week I made $350 – though $50 of that was a payoff from work I did last month, so I’m not sure if it counts. If I can make $2000 a month, though, I can breathe a little easier. That’s going to require some hustle.

…when the world never seems to be living up to your dreams, and suddenly you’re finding out the facts of life are all about you

I had a pitch rejected this morning, which isn’t great for my bottom line or my ego. But it’s part of the game, and you have to be prepared to hear “no.” As the proverb goes, you take the good, you take the bad, you take ’em both and there you have the facts of life. Who said that? Oh right, Mrs Garrett.

I fully expected a rejection, though, so it wasn’t devastating. I shot my shot, but I knew it was a long one – my pitch really was outside the scope of what they were looking for, though only just, so I thought I might have a chance. You win some, you lose some, but you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Who said that? This one I don’t know. Someone famous, surely. Anyway, it’s a good idea for a blog if not an article, so you’ll probably read it sometime next week.

2021 is the year of taking every chance, though. It is also the year of being persistent. The worst an editor – anybody, really – can say to you is “no,” and “no” is not so bad. Whenever I am feeling down about a rejection, or a piece not doing the numbers I’d like, I remember how much I hated working in mortgages. Whatever downsides to being a freelance writer (and there are several), it beats being miserable in a job I hate. But, I have a pitch out for an essay on that topic, so I won’t say too much here.

Interestingly, though, I stumbled upon a reminder of that very fact this morning. I finally linked my Gmail account to Outlook (easier than I expected), and in doing so found an e-mail from a former colleague, dated May 2012. She had forwarded it from her work account to my personal e-mail, I suppose so that we could talk about it without the powers that be monitoring us, though I can’t remember and that makes no sense as surely they’d see her forward it out-of-house.

Either way, it was a real eye-opener. Or rather, a stark reminder. My God, we were treated terribly. I forgot just how much extra work we were asked to do for no extra compensation. This was around the time I made the transition from the underwriting department (where I was essentially an assistant, though I bore the title junior underwriter) to processing. It paid more, so at the time it seemed like a good move. A promotion, even. In hindsight, if I wanted to make mortgages a career – which was never the plan – it was a mistake. I should have remained in underwriting.

Either way, reading this message reminded me of why I left the mortgage industry in 2019. I suddenly had flashbacks to myself, sitting at one of those long communal work stations in an open office environment plopped in the middle of an old warehouse on the North Side of Chicago, suddenly and uncontrollably weeping at the pressure the CEO himself was placing on my team’s shoulders.

None of us could manage. Most of us were gone within a year, either to different departments or different companies. I left for a different department. Then I was laid off.

Whenever I feel glum about my career, I try to remember mortgages. The first job I had, and the last. Both were terrible. (The one in the middle wasn’t so bad, though I didn’t realise it at the time – but that was down to other factors, and is a story for another day.) When I think about it, I know I made the right choice. This is where I belong. If not forever, for now.

That seems like a good place to leave it. Chip is empty, so I am going to refill him and probably finish reading Spark’s Press, the new novel by Sarah A Chrisman. I want to review it when I’m finished, so hopefully you’ll read that next week. I’m also going to figure out how to film a reaction video, which I hope to have up by next weekend – though that could take longer, depending on how long it takes me to figure out how to film said video. Either way, every day I’m hustlin’.

Who said that? Oh, right, Rick Ross. A philosopher for our times.

x. Skylar

Skylar Baker-Jordan is a freelance writer based in Tennessee. His work has appeared at the Independent, Huff Post UK, Salon, and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @skylarjordan and become a sustainer at www.patreon.com/skylarjordan

Sonia Weiser’s “Opportunities of the Week” newsleter – a great resource for freelance journalists

I first came across Sonia Weiser when she came across me. I tweeted about a website with absurd requirements for its writers, and she asked where. I looked at her profile and discovered she produces a weekly newsletter called “Opportunities of the Week,” in which she collates various calls for submissions from editors. Intrigued, I subscribed.

I recieved my first newsletter today, and Sonia did not disappoint. There were at least two dozen opportunities to pitch listed in the e-mail. Not all of them were a fit for me, of course, but several were. They not only provided me with contact information for editors, but also generated two or three ideas for stories that I can write even if I don’t write them for that specific platform. If you are freelancing, I highly suggest subscribing to Sonia’s newsletter. She doesn’t charge much ($3 USD/month), which is a bargain for the amount of work that must go into finding all these opportunities.

Knowing where and whom to pitch is part of the writing job with which I struggle, especially when pieces seem to fall between verticals. Over the years, I’ve written several pieces that could just as easily be filed under “politics” as they could “culture” or “tech.” Having editors tweet what they’re looking for is therefore incredibly helpful. Of course, no one can follow every editor on Twitter. That’s what makes a newsletter like Sonia’s so useful. Thank you, Sonia, for this wonderful resource.

Anyway, if any of you reading this are editors and you wish to commission me, my e-mail is skylar.bakerjordan@gmail.com. If you’re a reader and have an idea of somewhere I should pitch, drop me a line too.

x. Skylar

Skylar Baker-Jordan is a freelance writer based in Tennessee. His work has appeared at the Independent, Huff Post UK, Salon, and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @skylarjordan and become a sustainer at www.patreon.com/skylarjordan

Calendars and racist tchotchkes

Well, here we are. Another year begins. When I think about what 14-year-old Skylar would have imagined 2021 to be like, it certainly isn’t “stuck in a house with his grandparents trying to avoid a deadly pandemic and hoping the President doesn’t start the Second US Civil War or the Third World War.” Alas and alack.

My goal this year is to produce new content five days a week. That is ambitious, and I fully expect there will be weeks where that does not happen. I actually had an idea for a quick piece on British politics, but Boris Johnson’s statement to the nation means I am holding that until tomorrow. Still, I do feel it is important to start as one means to go on, so here I am.

It is probably for the best. I had housekeeping that needed doing today: housekeeping in the figurative sense that I needed to organise my calendar for 2021 and take care of clerical matters (organising invoices, paying bills, that sort of thing) and in the very literal sense of cleaning and organising my workspace. So that’s what I have done.

I bought this jaunty calendar last month, with the plan of writing down important anniversaries and dates so that I can better plan content. This will help me with both the YouTube series I want to launch, in which I talk about historic and political events, while also sparking some ideas for articles to pitch and when to pitch them. Not all ideas will be seen to fruition, but many will. Brainstorming possible topics to write about is one of the biggest challenges any writer will have, so it’s good to have a list to work off throughout the year.

I have tried three times to get this damn picture up in the paragraph I want it. I simply can’t. WordPress is the most unintuitive blogging platform I have ever used, and I bitterly resent the fact that my credit card renewed my subscription before I had a chance to cancel it. Anyway, enjoy a photo of my new calendar, referenced in the last paragraph.

I also finally took some of my books out of the plastic tubs they’ve been living in since I moved. I dragged several posters out of storage, too, which you can see in the featured image at the top of this blog. This serves the dual purpose of making my workspace more “me,” which helps me feel comfortable and relaxed and therefore more creative while also covering up some of the unfortunate tchotchkes my grandparents have collected over the years.

They are old white southern people and so have their share of ceramic Aunt Jemimas and lawn jockeys—things most people under the age of 40 would immediately peg as being at best in poor taste, but that my now-octogenarian grandfather has cherished for more decades than I have been alive. He particularly enjoys collecting figures of Native Americans. I use the general term, because I can’t say that I nor he could identify which tribe these figures are meant to represent. Nor could their creators, I imagine.

Papaw loves his Native American figurines. When I was a child, my grandmother was responsible for decorating the house, but my grandfather had “the family room,” (essentially a prototype for the “man caves” of the 2010s) which was decidedly masculine. He decorated that, and he favoured Native American imagery along with wolves. I don’t know if there is a connection in his mind there, but that is what I remember and what I still see.

Some of this no doubt comes from the Westerns he grew up watching. I hadn’t made that connection before just now, but it makes sense. Westerns were such a ubiquitous part of American culture in the 1950s and 1960s that they are bound to have left a massive impression on the generation which grew up with them. Not unlike superhero films in the 00s and 10s, I imagine. I wonder if there is some level of nostalgia for a misspent youth in my grandfather’s home décor choices. I should ask him.

Regardless, my grandfather rarely uses this room—essentially a den in the basement—and I use it every day, having established it as “my office” when I moved here at the end of 2019. So, I put my pictures up to hide his figures. As I said, this is to make me more comfortable in what has essentially become my space, but it also hides figures I feel many people will quite understandably find offensive.

I can hear some of you groaning about “PC gone mad,” but not alienating my audience as I film YouTube Videos in this room, and not having to worry that there is something problematic in every selfie I take just seems like good sense to me. On the other hand, it is not my house and I am not about to tell my grandfather what he can and cannot display in his own home. I have expressed my concerns about these figurines to my grandmother—specifically when she asked if there was anything I wanted to be left in her will (the house), and anything I didn’t (the racist knickknacks)—but I have learned to pick my battles with my cantankerous old grandpa, and this just isn’t a hill I wish to die on.

Besides, anyone who would cancel an old man for his bits and baubles needs some serious perspective. Still, I hope he doesn’t mind. I quite like looking up and seeing the original cast of EastEnders and River Phoenix playing a guitar. If he does, I will take them down, because it is his house and I am ever vigilant about not overstepping boundaries.

Anyway, this seems like a good place to leave it. I am going to make some notes for tomorrow’s article (probably a Medium piece), start compiling a list of outlets I want to pitch to in 2021, and do a few more clerical things that need taking care of before we get into the actual writing bit of my job. That’s the thing about writing professionally no one tells you about: you spend a lot of time not actually writing but rather doing office work. Every job has its drawbacks.

Happy New Year, you lot.

x. Skylar

Skylar Baker-Jordan is a freelance writer based in Tennessee. His work has appeared at the Independent, Huff Post UK, Salon, and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @skylarjordan and become a sustainer at www.patreon.com/skylarjordan