Category Archives: Strokes & Plugs

How to Get Your Juju Working

Hart Seely’s The Juju Rules: Or, How to Win Baseball Games from Your Couch has received many deserved accolades since its publication in April 2012.  Part personal memoir, part ode to the New York Yankees and part manual for obsessive fan behavior, The Juju Rules is a book any fan of baseball writing would enjoy.

Juju has a long tradition in baseball and in baseball literature. It was a favorite topic of Henry “Author” Wiggen, the pitcher-writer-narrator of The Southpaw and other Mark Harris baseball novels. To Seely, “Juju is the anecdotal science of influencing the outcome of sporting events through seemingly unrelated acts, in the comfort and privacy of your home. ”

This got me to thinking, though: Does juju differ from mojo? After moving into Safeco Field in 1999, the Seattle Mariners used the slogan “Sodo Mojo” for a few seasons, and it worked better than any other slogan they’ve had before or since (including the ill-timed “Believe Big” (2008), which resulted in a 101-loss season and declining attendance). With Sodo Mojo, the Mariners won 116 games in 2001, an all-time record for Major League Baseball.  On the other hand, the Mariners are one of only two major-league franchises never to have reached the World Series, let alone win it (with better juju, the Yankees have won 27).

Muddy Waters

When the Mariners introduced their slogan, few fans understood it without a dictionary. “Sodo” refers to the area where Safeco Field is located (SOuth of the demolished KingDOme,  or alternatively, SOuth of DOwntown). “Mojo” is more-or-less a synonym for juju.  Wikipedia notes that mojo  is “a magical charm bag used in voodoo, which has transmuted into a slang word for self-confidence, self-esteem or sex appeal,” as in blues guitarist Muddy Waters’ signature song, “Got My Mojo Workin’.”

My exhaustive research could only deduce that both mojo and juju can refer to a spoken or otherwise transmitted spell or to an object manipulated for that purpose. Both of African origin, the words mojo and juju can denote a magic spell or hex, a magical power (as in he works his mojo on the tennis court, or the blues band has lost its mojo), or  to a fetish, charm or amulet and the magic they possess.

Well, Frank Sinatra called it “Witchcraft,” Dr. John called it gris-gris, the Mariners called it mojo, and Seely is calling it juju.   “All thinking fans instinctively recognize the secret influence we wield over sporting events,” Seely writes in an essay on “We know enough not to change seats during a rally or to announce that our favorite point guard hasn’t missed a free throw in his last 40 tries. We never mention the no-hitter in progress, and we keep doing whatever it takes, as long as the dice are rolling our way. We practice juju, a mystical connection to the sports universe that has been around since the first foot-race between man and lion.”

Juju or mojo? If you can’t pick the right word on your own, hire an editor.

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Typewriter Art: Finding New Use for Near-Extinct Machines

Manual typewriter artwork from Mike Greenstein's business card and website.

My friend and frequent art director Melissa Snavlin gets the credit for choosing a manual typewriter as the artwork for my business card (thanks again, Missy, it’s still working for me!)  The image is of course intended to characterize my writing and editing business as traditional, steady and dependable.  That’s the way I see it, anyway.

Recently I read about another American artist who is taking the practically extinct typewriter in an entirely different artistic direction. According to this piece by writer Simone Preuss, Oakland, Calif., artist Jeremy Mayer takes old typewriters and reassembles them to look like human heads and bodies. Mayer has been building these sculptures since 1994, using nothing but old typewriter parts. According to the article, some of his work has sold for  thousands.

To see his works and find out more, visit his website,

For the record, I don’t really use a manual typewriter anymore, having gone totally digital many years ago. Every time there’s a power outage, however, I wish I still had one.

If you’re ever at a similar loss for words, contact me. Maybe a good editor at a remote location can help.

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Find Out What an Editor Does

The Editors’ Association of Canada (EAC) has published the 11-page brochure “So You Want to Be an
Editor, ”  a guide for people interested in editing as a profession. Many parts of it would also be beneficial for someone thinking about hiring an editor, explaining the many things editors do and the many reasons efficient communication is important in all fields.

Here’s favorite list in the brochure (edited by me, of course!):

  1. Editors think for a living.
  2. Successful editors turn their love of language into a way to earn a living and have an impact on the world around them.
  3. Editors are team players, often working with writers, publishers and other editors to reach a common goal.
  4. Technology is changing the way that editors do their work and the types of documents they deal with, but not the reason for editing. An editor’s goal is always the same: to improve communication.

Nicely said.

EAC is making the brochure available for free. Read the text or download it as a PDF from

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Who’da Thank It?: Even Great Editors Make Mistakes

Mike and Roland at Nationals Park, 2008.

My close friend and frequent cohort Roland Sweet currently serves as the self-appointed Proofreader General of the United States (PGUS)–and I have his business card to prove it (Motto: Spelling Counts). But even the exalted PGUS can screw up.  

The current issue of Log Home Living, the magazine he edits, includes a typo in the Editor’s Note: “thank” instead of “think,” as in “Thank of it as Log Home Living in high-def.” Fortunately, as I’ve often told Roland, nobody ever reads editor’s notes. Nevertheless, he is prepared to defend himself.

“In case anyone does notice,” Roland wrote to me in an email, “I think (or thank) I’m on safe ground telling them that ‘thank’ is the pluperfect subjective conditional of  ‘think’ or that it’s hip-hop slang used to reach out to the next generation of log-home owners (similar to ‘thang’ and because ‘thank’ rhymes with ‘skank’  better than ‘think’). And who doesn’t remember Rodin’s sculpture, ‘The Thanker’ or Aretha Franklin’s hit, ‘Thank’: You better thank (thank) thank about what you’re trying to do to me. Yeah, thank (thank, thank), let your mind go, let yourself be free.

“But let’s not forget the 10,135 words I got right. At least I thank I did.” Thus far, no one has written the magazine to point out the error.

Roland Sweet's latest book.

As far as I know, there are no errors in Roland’s latest book, Log Home Secrets of Success: An Insider’s Guide to Making Your Dream Home a Reality (PixyJack Press),  a practical guide to planning, building and living comfortably in a log home. Roland’s tips and insights about the various facets of designing a log home, selecting suppliers and builders and evaluating log packages are invaluable. He explains how to calculate costs, what to look for when buying land, making energy-wise decisions, working with a builder and the importance of assembling a team that shares your vision. It includes photos, advice from log-home owners and a useful appendix.

Roland, of course, also chronicles news of human folly in a weekly syndicated newspaper column called Newsquirks (News & Blues in the Syracuse New Times, where we worked together). Although Roland is a terrific editor of his own work and rarely makes any mistakes, now that he’s been caught in one he no doubt understands the need for hiring an another set of eyes to review his writing before it’s published. If he ever needs another editor, he knows whom he can call.


Filed under Editing Tips, Friends of Mike, Strokes & Plugs

Child Care Center Gets Press Coverage

I’ve gotten a great deal of personal satisfaction out of my ongoing professional relationship with Paula Jones, owner and founder of Our Beginning Child Care & Early Learning in Seattle. Paula first contacted me several years ago for help with her resumé and other documents related to a job search. She didn’t get that job, but a year or so later was calling again, this time to help her formulate a business plan to get financing for a child care center–a high-quality specialized facility that took a holistic approach to child care, early learning and parenting skills. It didn’t take her long to convince me she had a winning concept and the expertise to make it happen. Ultimately, all the lenders, certifiers, and realtors agreed, and about two years later, Our Beginning opened in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood.

The opening triggered another wave of activity for me. There was Web site copy to be edited, as well as job descriptions, hiring practices, and employee policies. And press releases, of course, heralding the grand opening and the unique philosophies behind the facility.

I thought the media would respond to Paula’s presentation, and early results indicate I’m right. KING5-TV and the Ballard News-Tribune responded, and more will no doubt follow. Congratulations to Paula for getting the attention she and Our Beginning deserve. With the dearth of quality child care facilities in the Seattle area, the center should be running at full capacity quickly. I look forward to doing many more projects with Paula and her associates in the future.

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Tweeting in Style

According to Dom Sagolla, a co-creator of Twitter and author of the new book 140 Characters: A Style Guide for the Short Form (Wiley 2009), “The constraint of 140 characters is an opportunity for creative self-expression of all kinds. With Twitter and the short form, we have inadvertently invented a new genre of literature.”

Well, maybe, but it may be a while before anybody posts Moby Dick on Twitter. For marketers and business owners, however, the so-called social media are an increasingly important avenue for promoting a business. In 140 Characters, Sagolla writes about how to develop a personal voice and make the most of short messages. He wants to do for social networking sites what Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style did for good writing via lessons in grammar and composition.

According to Sagolla, 140 Characters is the first writing guide specifically dedicated to communicating with the succinctness and clarity that the Internet age demands. More than a book about Twitter, 140 Characters covers the basics of short-form writing, including basic grammar rules and the importance of communicating with simplicity, honesty and humor. Most of its advice focuses on helping the reader find the right words.

And with only 140 characters at a time to work with, getting to the point fast becomes even more important. That’s when the keen eye of an editor could really help U!

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Web Kings

One of my biggest projects of 2009, the redesign and launch of the Alaska tourism Web site, went live in late October. Last spring I worked with Goldbelt Management Information Systems Administrator Reed Reynolds and managers of the Native corporation’s tourism companies (Mount Roberts Tramway, Goldbelt Hotel, Seadrome Marina) to rewrite and format copy for the 24-page site. Flyte New Media of Portland, Me., handled the technological, project manager and design aspects. Check out the Flyte Web site for all kinds of free information and advice on Web strategy and content, blogging, social media, Web marketing, search engine optimization (SEO) and more. They are smart, well-organized, and willing to pass on a lot of what they know.


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Jeff Blumenfeld Is Going Places

I could tell Jeff Blumenfeld was a go-getter the moment he walked into the Syracuse New Times office oh so many years ago. He had the moxie of a Catskills comic (after all, he’s from Monticello, capital of the Borscht Belt) and an insatiable desire to write. He threw so many ideas at me that all I had to say was, “Why not?” And so Jeff took New Times readers to the MONY Weather Star, the Simmons School of Embalming, a Thruway toll booth, Yasgur’s Farm and on the trail of missing Syracuse University freshman Karen Levy. Jeff could tell a story, and do it with style and a touch of humor.

That storytelling ability is evident in You Want to Go Where? How to Get Someone to Pay for the Trip of Your Dreams (Skyhorse Publishing), Jeff’s new book. While primarily a primer for adventurers interested in finding corporate sponsorship and funding for daring expeditions, Jeff’s experiences in putting together such partnerships have resulted some lively anecdotes that make these lessons seem more human. It’s a well-organized, fast and light read–and I’m not just saying that because Jeff mentioned me in the acknowledgments.

In addition to running his own public relations agency, Jeff is editor and publisher of Expedition News, a monthly review of significant expeditions, research projects and newsworthy adventures distributed online and by mail.

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