Friday, October 24, 2014

The Bechdel Test: Hollywood's Conversational Rut

What do you talk about during normal conversations? Does it vary between men and women? Do men only talk about sports and sex, while women only talk about clothes and men? Do parents only talk about their kids with other parents? Do you talk about those same topics over and over, or do you discuss different topics?

What about work friends versus personal friends? Or work friends who are also personal friends? When I worked in an office, I found that I would talk to friends at work about personal things, but if we were ever at lunch or dinner, we talked about work.

More importantly, do the movies reflect real life, or are they a cheap, facile imitation?

I recently learned about the Bechdel test in movies, and how it relates to conversations between two women. It's a simple test that determines whether a work of fiction — a movie, book, or TV show — meets three rules at least once. The work has to have 1) two named female characters, 2) who talk to each other, 3) about something besides a man.

Named for Allison Bechdel, creator of the "Dykes to Watch Out For" comic, the test applies to any two women talking about any man. It could be two friends talking about their husbands or boyfriends, two sisters talking about their father, or two female doctors talking about a male patient.

There's even a joke about it: Two women walk into a bar and talk about the Bechdel test.

Of course, it fails if one of them is actually dating a guy named Bechdel Test.

Many cinemaphiles and women's advocates have cited the high number of Bechdel failures as a sign that Hollywood isn't interested in anything where women aren't interested in men or need men to complete them. It fosters the belief that women are merely accessories to men and spend their whole lives trying to win and please them.

You can see which movies pass the Bechdel test at BechdelTest.com. They apply the three rules to every movie, people share their opinions in the comments, and the moderator will declare whether it passes based on the discussion.

A few movies that pass the test are Disney's "Brave" and "The Incredibles," and Dreamworks' "How To Train Your Dragon." "Bridesmaids" passed with flying colors, because the cast was nearly all women who talked about their friendships, the explosive diarrhea at the dress shop, and how much Annie hated Helen.

Er, so I've been told.

Meanwhile, other movies failed because of a lack of female characters. "The Expendables 3" and "Captain America" only had one female character, while "The Avengers" failed because there was only one female character in a scene at any one time.

I wonder if the third rule is too broad. After all, two female doctors talking about a male patient is not the same thing as two women talking about a male love interest. But, no one asked me, so I don't get to have a say.

Could we pass the Bechdel test in real life? If art truly imitated life, you would expect more movies to pass, because our real conversations pass it with ease. I know plenty of women who talk about all sorts of things besides men.

Forget the stupid old jokes about shopping and shoes. They talk about work, family, music, art, food, and the friend who couldn't make it to lunch that day. Once in a great while, they'll talk about their boyfriends, husbands, or that creepy guy eavesdropping on us at the next table, and oh my God! I think he's writing down what we're saying!

It would be interesting to apply the Bechdel test to other situations. For example, can two men talk about something other than sports or sex?

Man #1: Did you see the sportsball game last night?

Man #2: Oh yeah, I loved it when my favorite player did that awesome sportsball move.

Man #1: I couldn't believe the sports official blew that call in the third session.

Man #3: Boobies!

Similarly, I'd love to see parents talk about something other than their children. Whether it's a couple alone, or getting together with friends, young parents should spend an hour without talking about the kids at all. Or at least spare us from that stupid story about the cute thing Jeremy did with the wastebasket again.

We all get into conversational ruts at times. We have people in our lives we discuss the same topics with over and over. We have a wondrous variety of conversations that pass the test with ease. If only Hollywood would figure this out for itself.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm meeting my friend, Bechdel, for lunch. He's having girlfriend problems again.



The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on Amazon.com
---

Like this post? Leave a comment.

Friday, October 17, 2014

School Bans Cake Because They Hate Fun

Hands up, all you kids who love getting cake at school on your birthday.

Not so fast, Burlington, Kentucky.

According to a story in the Cincinnati Enquirer (official motto: "What's the meaning of life?"), Burlington Elementary School revised its wellness policy to make birthdays absolutely no fun.

"We hate children, and we hate birthdays," cackled the principal, stroking her black cat. "We don't think kids should have fun at school, and banning food at birthday parties was a good start."

Okay, that's not true (as if I have to say that), but I do think educators often throw the baby out with the bath water.

The Burlington Elementary PTA really did change their wellness policy to ban birthday cake and ice cream. In fact, they banned food of any kind at birthday celebrations.

"We're finding it's difficult to be the first," Valerie Bailey told the Enquirer. Her son goes to Burlington, and she was on the committee that created the policy. "Parents say it's not fair. But we hope it sends a message to the parents and kids, especially with the obesity rate being so high, and puts a bug in their ear."

Except they can't have bugs either. Someone might be allergic.

Oh, but it's not all bad! You can still have non-food treats. Fun things like pencils, erasers, and bookmarks. Because the one thing every kid is dying for at a school birthday party is a pencil.

"Yay, this is much better than cake and ice cream and playing party games," said no kid ever.

It's like the Grinch stole Christmas again, and left you a pair of socks.

Parents and teachers were concerned that birthday parties took up too much class time, something they apparently couldn't control. Meanwhile, pencil birthday parties only take 30 seconds, because the last thing you want to do with a No. 2 Disappointment Stick is have a party.

Now the school is finding "fun" and "enjoyable" ways to "celebrate" birthdays. One student brought jump ropes for the class, and they celebrated with a jump rope party.

Next week, they'll celebrate Caitlyn's birthday with a math quiz, because jump ropes and pencils will be banned because of Zero Tolerance weapons policies.

Burlington Elementary joins a growing number of schools concerned with childhood obesity. Kathy Reutman, a Boone County school system spokesperson, said that 37 percent of their children are either at risk for obesity, or are already obese. She's also responsible for making sure the district's wellness policies meet the federal guidelines.

"It's not up to us to tell parents what to do," she told the Enquirer. "But when children are in our care we make sure that nothing gets in the way of them and their learning. Food allergies or too much sugar get in the way of that."

She sounds like one of those educators who say "disrupting the educational process" a lot. Like my teachers said to my parents. A lot.

Here's an idea: if you're worried about childhood obesity, quit eliminating gym class. Make it a part of the school day, not the once or twice a week playground stroll it's become. Physical fitness experts tell us we perform and learn better if we exercise, so let kids play and run around at recess, twice a day. Don't let them sit for six or seven hours a day. We do that as adults, and that's a primary reason we're getting fat.

One reason we didn't have problems with childhood obesity when I was a kid is because we played outside all the time. Now, kids sit inside at school, sit inside at home. They don't spend much time playing or engaging in physical activity at all. And when they do, it's so structured and parent-driven, the kids can't have any fun, and aren't allowed to organize their own play.

Yes, this is a food issue. Yes, schools should set an example and limit the amount of sweets kids get. But any nutritionist will tell you that diet without exercise doesn't do anything. It makes people skinny, but not healthy.

Let the kids have their birthday fun. They're in school on their birthday, which already sucks. But now you've taken away the only thing they have to look forward to and replaced it with pencils, erasers, and bookmarks. Things they already get at school.

Or, just remember the disappointed looks on their faces when they get yet another birthday pencil. It's the same look you'll have when your kid gives you a spatula for Christmas.


Photo credit: Angie Chapman (Flickr, Creative Commons)


The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on Amazon.com
---

Like this post? Leave a comment.

Friday, October 10, 2014

I Need A Truck That Runs on Daisies

Erik had a molar removed on Column Day, and was not feeling very funny. When he called, we pretended not to understand him — "Uh kent weh mu colluh" — and made him repeat himself four or five times. He swore at us, we think, and hung up. We're running a reprint from 2005.

I've got a serious confession to make. I'm not proud of what I've done, but I can't shoulder this terrible burden any longer. Even though my liberal friends will gasp in disbelief, and my conservative friends will point their fingers and shout, "See?! See?! Hypocrisy!" I have to say it.

I used to own an SUV.

A gas guzzling, planet wrecking "I'm changing the environment ask me how" SUV.

I feel so guilty, like I've committed an unpardonable sin like stealing from old people, or accepting a prepaid trip from foreign lobbyists.

Me: Hello, my name is Erik, and I'm an SUV owner.

Support Group: Hello, Erik

Me: It's been 12 months since I've owned an SUV. I still lay awake at night, dreaming of the spacious roominess and feelings of supremeÍ power as I bore down on smaller, weaker drivers with 280 horses strapped under me, CRUISING DOWN THE HIGHWAY, KNOWING I COULD HAUL A BOAT, TRAILER, AND SMALL VILLAGE THROUGH THE MOUNTAINS AT A MOMENT'S — uhhh, that is, I feel shame for all the gas I consumed and ozone-killing poison I pumped into the atmosphere.

Actually, it was my wife's SUV, which makes me an enabler. But I still carry the guilt. I used to be a strong environmentalist in my younger days, so I felt appropriately ashamed for all the damage our SUV was doing.

So I assuaged those feelings by driving a full-size Chevy pickup. (Mine looked a lot like the one in the photo, but that's not actually my truck.) Not one of those Nancy-boy-it's-really-just-a-big-car SUVs. And not one of those toy pickups that need a little windup key to get started5. No, my pickup was one of the big ones, it was appropriately dirty, and I could haul 100 two-by-fours without missing a beat.

When I drove, car owners pulled over in fear. SUV owners glared at me in fits of yuppie jealousy. The toy pickup drivers would hang their heads in shame and putt-putt home.

However, the engine wasn't in great shape, and so my gas mileage was — let's just say it was a bit on the thirsty side. It's not that it was inefficient. . . at least not if you measured it in feet instead of miles per gallon. Global oil prices rose and fell, depending on whether I took a road trip. I realized I had a problem when OPEC named me Customer of the Year over Shell and ExxonMobil.

That's when my beloved truck began to conflict with my past environmental activist tendencies, and I began to have serious doubts about whether I should own a pickup, or switch over to a car that ran on solar power and liberal guilt. Unfortunately, Indiana is a conservative state, and it actually causes inefficiencies in the creation of guilt — too many knee-jerk reactions really limit how much guilt can be created by one man — so I decided to stick with a regular gas combustion engine. At least until someone could create an electric car that traveled for more than 20 miles on a single charge and didn't look stupid.

I finally got rid of my truck when I started a new job that required an hour long daily commute. When I started, some quick calculations showed that I'd be spending my children's inheritance each month just to get to work each day. And that didn't count all the extra trips to the Spotted Owl Skeet Shooting Range on the weekends.

So I sold my truck and got a car that gets 30 miles per gallon, but gets blown off the road whenever I get passed by a semi.

Now I can drive to and from work four times on a full tank of gas, although it struggles to haul anything heavier than a pair of socks. And while the toy pickup guys now point and laugh at me, at least the Nature Conservancy gave me the Most Improved Award for 2004. I proudly display the sticker on the passenger side window, but now the car leans toward that side.

But I think I found a compromise. In the next couple of years, Toyota will come out with all new hybrid vehicles. Not a gas-only engine in their entire line, including their trucks. Their new pickup promises 30 miles per gallon and 290 horsepower. And I'm seriously considering getting one. They're energy efficient, but they're also big, macho, manly machines. WITH ONE OF THOSE MONSTERS, I CAN RULE THE ROAD ONCE AGAIN!

At least if my wife lets me get one.


The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on Amazon.com
---

Like this post? Leave a comment.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Movie Night at the Deckers

"What should we watch tonight?"

"One at a time, please. One at a time. Buddy, what do you want to see?"

"We watched that a couple weeks ago, didn't we?"

"Yes, we did. Plus you watched it twice last weekend."

"I know they're awesome, but that doesn't mean we have to watch the Avengers every week."

"Fine, let's put that in the Maybe column. Sweetie, what's your pick?"

"No."

"I'm just not in the cartoon mood."

"Fine, anime."

"Fine, manga."

"I said it right. How do you say it?"

"Mahn-gah? I'm not calling it that. It's manga. Like mango."

"Because I'm not pretentious. I'm a Hoosier. We pronounce things Hoosier-ly."

"Well, there's warsh. People go'et the store. They say Tuesdee instead of Tuesday."

"I know I don't talk that way, because my parents aren't from here. But that's how people talk in Indiana. And people also say manga."

"Regardless, I'm vetoing that one."

"No, it doesn't even get in the Maybe column. Excuse me, the mah-be column."

"What about you, Honey? Any ideas?"

"I'd rather watch manga."

"It's NOT mahn-gah!"

"No, I'm not watching that."

"Because I don't want to watch some sad movie about two teenagers with cancer."

"I know it was a best-selling book. I didn't read it either."

"Because I'm a grown man and I don't like reading young adult sad stories."

"No dystopian archery fiction either."

"it means the world has gone to pot."

"None. I don't like young adult fiction."

"He's different."

"Because he's a cultural phenomenon. They made eight movies, and his books were global best-sellers. How could I not watch them?"

"That little boy turned out to be an incredible wizard, and I will hear nothing bad said about him or Ms. Rowling!"

"Yes, I know he's from Indianapolis. I'm still not watching The Fault With Our Stars."

"In Our Stars. Whatever."

"Tell you what, if John Green buys one of my books and reviews it on his website, I'll read one of his."

"We still need to finish watching 'Wayne's World.'"

"What are you talking about? It was awesome!"

"You all liked the Bohemian Rhapsody scene, and the part where Garth zapped the guy with the stun gun."

"You haven't even seen the best part where they get Mr. Big to show up at Wayne's place to hear Crucial Taunt."

"It would make more sense if you watched the whole movie."

"Fine, let's watch Return of the Pink Panther."

"Keep talking like that, and you'll be grounded."

"This is Spinal Tap?"

"Dodgeball?"

"Let's just pick one before your mother comes downstairs."

"Because she'll make us — hey, I didn't hear you there."

"I said, uh, we needed to pick a movie before you came down."

"Because you'll make us watch something I don't want to see."

"I do not! I rarely get to pick."

"The last thing I picked was Wayne's World, and we haven't even finished watching that. Meanwhile, we've had suggestions of The Avengers, something manga — manga! — and The Fault With Our Bodies."

"In Our Bodies."

"Stars. Whatever."

"If we can't pick a movie, let's watch something on TV instead. Who wants to watch Brooklyn-Nine-Nine?"

"Absolutely not! I hate zombies."

"No, no anime TV."

"Not The Red Band Society either."

"Because I liked it better when it was called The Fault With Our Hormones."

"In Our Hormones."

"Stars. Whatever."

"Alright, Big Bang Theory. I can live with that. Is that okay with everyone?"

"Excellent. Now, does anyone want a snack before we start?"

"No, I don't want popcorn. How about chips?"



Photo credit: Sharyn Morrow (Flickr, Creative Commons)

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on Amazon.com
---

Like this post? Leave a comment.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Student Punished For Sharing Lunch

A California student was punished for sharing his lunch with a hungry friend this month, because the school district has a policy against students being compassionate and caring.

Kyle Bradford, 13, is an 8th grader at Weaverville Elementary in northern California. At lunch one day, his friend had been served a cheese sandwich, because he may not have been able to afford a full meal. Kyle had gotten the chicken burrito, but he wasn't hungry at the time.

So what do two boys who don't want their lunches typically do? Throw them out and don't eat until dinner.

What did Kyle do? Gave some of his chicken burrito to his friend, so he wouldn't be hungry.

What did the school do? Gave him detention, because school administrators aren't allowed to make common sense decisions.

"We have a policy that prohibits students from exchanging meals," cackled superintendent Tom Barnett, rubbing his hands together. "Of course if students are concerned about other students not having enough to eat we would definitely want to consider that, but because of safety and liability we cannot allow students to actually exchange meals."

Consider it they did. They could have done any number of things: expelled Kyle; made him write "I will not help others" 5,000 times; force fed him chicken burritos every day; or, shoved him in a closet full of rats. Instead they "only" gave him detention.

Nicely done, Weaverville. Your generosity and intelligence has not gone unnoticed.

In fact, it's been so noticed that Weaverville has been forced to shut down its Facebook page, because many other people were similarly "impressed" by their "generosity."

Whatever happened to the days of trading lunches? Swapping your cookies for a bag of potato chips? Or giving that weird kid your pimiento loaf sandwiches because your mom never understood how much you hated them?

I would hope kids today know what they're allergic to and what to avoid. I would hope every cafeteria is taking steps to ensure they don't use allergen-contaminated foods. I would especially hope cafeterias use the best ingredients to create lunches that are healthy and kids will enjoy.

In this column's 19 year history, that last sentence may be the funniest thing I've ever written.

Kyle's mom, Sandy, didn't believe her child should be punished for showing compassion. She thinks Kyle did the right thing.

"By all means the school can teach them math and the arithmetic and physical education, but when it comes to morals and manners and compassion, I believe it needs to start at home with the parent," she told KRCR TV.

I think schools should also be a place to reinforce manners and compassion. When I was a kid, school wasn't just a place where we learned math and history. We were taught the importance of fair play and honesty. We were taught about community, citizenship, and why we should help others.

In northern California, kids are being taught that adherence to the rules is vastly more important and honorable than helping someone in need.

It's lessons like this that create people who "were only following orders," a dark and sinister phrase if there ever was one.

This past school year, my friend, Ryan, learned of some kids at an Indianapolis elementary school who weren't eating lunch because their families were on the delinquent lunch accounts list, and couldn't afford to catch up.

Ryan paid every kids' lunch account so they could eat again.

The response was so overwhelming, he did it at another school, and then another, and friends started helping, and now he's starting a nonprofit called Feed The Kids at KidsLunches.org.

What Ryan is doing is helping kids eat. But what if the schools had policies that other people weren't allowed to pay for lunches? What if they were so inflexible as to not allow a good Samaritan to help those who needed it?

You can imagine the outcry if a school were to point to the policy manual and refuse to let Ryan and his group feed hungry kids. It's no different from what Kyle did, although, admittedly, people don't have allergies to money. Ryan's great work is rightfully rewarded, but Weaverville Elementary has punished Kyle Bradford for the same generous spirit.

Kyle has served his detention, but he's unrepentant. He said that he'll gladly do it again, just to make sure that a friend doesn't go hungry. Maybe, after this outcry, and more of Kyle's compassionate civil disobedience, the school will realize their cold-heartedness is teaching their students a very important lesson.

That blind obedience to stupid, arbitrary rules set by dictatorial authorities should be completely ignored for the sake of humanity.


The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on Amazon.com
---

Like this post? Leave a comment.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Some Thoughts On My 1,000th Column

This is a major milestone for me. This column, this one right here, is my one thousandth newspaper humor column. Exactly 1,000 weeks or 19.25 years ago, a small town newspaper publisher took a chance on me, and agreed to publish what I now laughingly call a humor column.

Not laughingly because they were good. Laughingly as in "it's so cute that you think you're funny." My first columns are so awful that I can't even read them. If you have any copies of those papers from the second half of 1995, please set fire to them.

I first met my publisher, Al Nich, at a meeting of the Kosciusko County Democrats. I asked if he was looking for any columnists for his paper. I had written a couple of funny essays earlier that year, after trying to write a complaint letter to Fresh Air With Terry Gross. It ended up being nothing but jokes because I don't like direct confrontation. I prefer a more passive-aggressive approach, like secretly signing people up for bedwetting mailing lists. After that letter, I thought I showed some promise, and wanted to keep going.

Al asked for some samples, and said to stop by his office in a couple weeks. When I showed up, he asked me one question: "Are you a Democrat?"

I said, "Well, yeah, we met at the Democrats meeting two weeks ago."

"Then welcome aboard!"

To celebrate, Al and his wife took me to lunch, and we talked about the small town newspaper business. Of course, being a small town newspaper, they couldn't pay me anything, but I was so grateful for the chance, I was willing to do it for free. We agreed that I would get paid if they ever raked in the big bucks.

Nineteen and a quarter years later, and we're all still waiting.

I'm not complaining though. Without that break, I wouldn't be where I am today. So I gladly churn out this column every week. Also, because I don't know what I'd do if my Thursday nights suddenly freed up.

If you want to be a stickler about it, this isn't the 1,000th column I've written; it's the 1,000th column I've published. I occasionally run reprints if I'm traveling for work, on vacation, or sick. But I've never missed a deadline in all that time.

But the Wakarusa Tribune and Mishawaka Enterprise still publish my work, week after week, and I'm just as grateful today as I was back then.

Because they gave me a chance to experiment and learn. They didn't say anything when a piece had a typo, and I had to rush over a correction. They didn't say anything when I tried telling stories with only one punchline at the end. They didn't say anything when I fancied myself a great first draft writer, only to discover I was a horrible first draft writer two months later.

Which makes me wonder if they read these things at all.

Being a beginning humor writer in the early days of the Internet also helped me hone my skills. I joined an email discussion list called The NetWits in 1999, and we're still going strong. I started my own website, and submitted guest articles to friends' sites. I was even listed on a web page of funny writers, only to be removed six months later.

When I emailed the owner about it, he said, "I just don't think you're that funny." I was so mad that I practiced, studied, and read everything I could find about writing, so I could become funnier than anyone else on his list. Then, when he would beg me to rejoin his list, I was going to write something so witty about how he could go have sex with himself.

Eighteen years later, and he still hasn't written. Also, his humor website is long gone. Also I don't remember his name. So I get the last laugh, because I get to commemorate his short-sightedness in my 1,000th column, while he's lost to a sea of anonymity, where I hope he's nibbled to death by buck-toothed lampreys.

Not that I'm still bitter.

This column even helped me realize I was really a writer. That's an important moment in most writers' lives, because many writers don't like to call themselves that. We're afraid a little man with a clipboard will tell us there's been a terrible mistake, and we're supposed to be claims adjusters, so we keep quiet about it.

It was around 2000 that I finally told someone I was a writer. The little man never showed up, and no one laughed at me, so I kept saying it until I finally believed it myself.

Because of this column.

I became a book author. I have co-authored three books on social media and personal branding, ghost co-authored a fourth, helped write two books that have never seen the light of day, and am currently working on another book, plus a super-secret writing project.

Because of this column.

I own my own writing business, give talks at different marketing and writing conferences, and people hire me to help with their own writing projects. I have written radio plays, stage plays, and magazine articles. All told, I've written over three million words in my career.

Because of this column.

So, when I celebrate this milestone, I'm not just commemorating 1,000 deadlines, or 1,000 fart jokes (more like 3,487 if you want to be a stickler about it). I'm using this time and this space to celebrate the man and the newspapers that gave me the break that led to a nearly 20 year span filled with words, sentences, paragraphs, pages, chapters, books, and a career.

All because I was a Democrat who couldn't write a complaint letter to Terry Gross without cracking jokes. Now I'm looking forward to the next 1,000 columns over the next 19.25 years.

I'm also thinking another lunch may be in order.



The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on Amazon.com
---

Like this post? Leave a comment.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Stop Fearing Your Food

Yet another of my friends is feeling the crushing weight of his age and belly on his knees and lower back. Yet another of my friends has realized his lifetime of cheeseburgers and carb-rich beer may not have been the healthiest of lifestyles.

I, like so many of my friends, have realized too late that we're not as young as we used to be, and the 20-year-old's metabolism, gained from a 20-year-old's lifestyle of riding a bike to class and playing soccer every day, is no longer functional 25 years later.

And all of us were especially surprised to learn that others have noticed we've been carrying a small ottoman down the front of our shirts for the last 10 years.

To be fair, we didn't notice it until eight years ago, and we've been trying to hide it by leaving our shirts untucked. Apparently, this has not fooled anyone.

"You know, all you need to do is eat less and exercise more," our annoying skinny friends say whenever anyone posts a Facebook update about the extra weight they're carrying.

Really? Eat less and exercise more? I'm so glad you said that. Apparently, I've been mistakenly eating more and exercising less. If you hadn't given the same advice everyone else has said for the last 300 years, I might have lived a full life without ever knowing that those five simple words were the key to my success. Thank you for fixing a lifetime of habits with a bumper sticker.

We're not stupid. Every man or woman who's lugging around extra pounds knows what the problem is. And some spinach-and-carrot-birthday-cake-eating fitness guru telling us to eat less and exercise more isn't the solution.

The problem is nearly all of us in this country have an unhealthy attitude toward food. All of us, even the food fanatics.

We treat food like medicine. We think if we eat the right foods, we'll prevent this, and we'll cure that. Eat more of this green thing to reduce your blood pressure, eat a bunch of orange stuff to reduce your cancer risk. Drink red wine to lower your cholesterol. Don't drink too much red wine though, or you'll damage your liver. If we keep treating food this way, the pharmaceutical companies start selling it for $500 a pop.

We also fear our food. I know people who won't touch food if it's not organic, like it was rolled in dog poop before it ever reached their table. They spend way more money on organic food than is necessary, convinced it will wipe away all their health problems, as if they went skinny dipping in Ponce de León's Fountain of Kale Smoothies.

I know people who will only ever buy brown eggs, because they believe brown eggs are "healthier." Know the difference between a brown egg and a white egg?

About $1.20 per dozen.

Having spent several years in the poultry industry, I can tell you that brown eggs are laid by brown chickens, and white eggs are laid by white chickens. Brown chickens are not healthier, their eggs aren't lower in cholesterol, and they won't make you look 10 years younger if you boil them in a quart of bottled spring water.

The French have a good attitude toward food. They treat it like a pleasure, not fuel. They savor it, not fear it. They experience their meals, they don't post Facebook pictures of them. They eat what they enjoy, not what will fix them. Dinner is a time to sit down with family and friends, taking an hour or two. We get celebrity PSAs that tell us families should eat together once a week.

Even our language reflects our attitude toward toward food. There's the "sinful" chocolate cake that we "indulge" in. It's so "decadent," it's "better than sex." Of course, you could make the "sacrifice" and stick with the "guilt free" diet alternatives, so you don't "pay the price" later on.

If the food is good, we use negative words to make us feel guilty. And even the most healthier-than-thou eaters recognize that the awesomeness of "bad" food, because they drone on and on about the "sacrifices" they're making.

This is not a healthy attitude. Our food may not be healthy in itself, but if we could just stop treating it like a reward and/or a dangerous beast, we could be healthier as people. Or at the very least, we could be happier with who we are.

And who we're with. Because if your food is better than sex, you're doing it wrong.



The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on Amazon.com
---

Like this post? Leave a comment.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Five People You Meet At Dinner

It was the strangest dream. I had been thinking about that "what five historic people would you invite to dinner?" question as I drifted to sleep. Next thing I knew, this happened:

Ernest Hemingway: Can I get a martini? Very dry.

Me: What?

Hemingway: A martini, dry.

Joan of Arc: And I'll have a red wine.

Me: Why are you telling me this?

Vincent Van Gogh: Because we're here for dinner. You invited us.

Me: Oh, of course.

Abraham Lincoln: I'd like a nice cold beer. I don't get many of those where I am now.

Me: Really? I figured you of all people would be up. . . you know.

Lincoln: Oh, I am, I am. But Mrs. Lincoln doesn't approve. Says it's a sin. Even Jesus has tried to get her to lighten up, but she's having none of that, and tells me so several times a day. I sometimes visit Jefferson Davis just to get some peace and quiet.

Van Gogh: You mean he lives. . .?

Lincoln: Just down the street from me.

Hemingway: I have to say, I'm a bit surprised to hear that.

Lincoln: You and me both, brother!

Me: So this is a unique opportunity. I wanted to meet you all and to hear your stories, so I thought—

Joan: Not now, waiter. I am hungry. Some beef bourguignon, s'il vous plait.

Hemingway: Beef bourguignon? That's a little fancy for a soldier, isn't it?

Me: I'm not actually the waiter, I'm—

Joan: Don't be a chauvinist, you bearded old fool.

Hemingway: Ha ha! I like this one. I think I found the fifth ex-Mrs. Hemingway.

Joan: Don't flatter yourself. I could never be with such an ungodly man.

Van Gogh: Maybe she goes for the sensitive artist types, Heer Hemingway.

Joan: Maybe she doesn't appreciate being spoken about in the third person.

Van Gogh: Maybe she should learn that the last 600 years haven't done her any favors!

Joan: Go choke on a sunflower, you one-eared ginger!

Van Gogh: I know what I want for dinner. Steak, burned and crispy.

Joan: Ass!

Lincoln: I thought you were a vegetarian.

Van Gogh: What?

Lincoln: I SAID, I THOUGHT YOU WERE A VEGETARIAN.

Me: If we could return to the topic at hand. I'd like to discuss a few things before we—

Lincoln: Barbecued ribs! That's what I want. Man, nothing says summertime cookout like ribs and a few cold ones with friends.

Hemingway: The wife not let you have those either?

Lincoln: No. She keeps yammering about my cholesterol. I keep telling her, 'Mary, we're already dead,' but she doesn't listen.

Van Gogh: What?

Lincoln: What do you want for dinner? Were you serious about the steak?

Van Gogh: No, I was just—argh, now I don't know. Maybe pizza? Come back to me.

Hemingway: Steak sounds like a grand idea. And can we get another round of drinks here, barkeep?

Me: I'm not actually the barkeep either. I'm the—

Joan: Yeah, yeah, we didn't ask for your life story.

Lincoln: Hey, Hem, you got any cigars?

Hemingway: Sure thing, Abe. Vinnie, Joanie, you want one?

Van Gogh: Sure, why not?

Joan: Well, I usually try to stay away from fire, but I think I can make an exception.

Me: You're going to have cigars before dinner? I thought they came after.

Lincoln: Doesn't look like we're in any danger of that happening anytime soon.

Me: Actually, the dinner has already been planned and prepared, and should be here shortly.

Hemingway: Then why don't you make like a tree, and go get it.

Me: I keep telling you. I. Am not. The waiter. I'm your host, and the entire purpose tonight was to gather five notable people and have some engaging conversations about the world today.

Van Gogh: Five? I only see four of us. You aren't the fifth, are you?

Me: Oh, no. I am merely a humble—

Hemingway: Thought so. I mean, I'd never heard of you.

Me: Our final guest has yet to arrive.

Amelia Earhart: Sorry I'm late everyone. I seem to have gotten lost. Waiter, could I have a gin and tonic, please? I'm parched. There's a good lad.

Me: I give up. You people can just feed yourselves. And I hope you all choke on it!

Van Gogh: Alright, pizza time! Somebody get Alexander Graham Bell in here, and let's order some pies! Waiter, where's our drinks?

There's a lot of laughter and talking as I leave, and I wake up in my own bed.

With a voicemail from my credit card company asking whether I meant to order 12 large pizzas, two cases of beer, and a side of barbecued ribs.




The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on Amazon.com
---

Like this post? Leave a comment.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Are You Ready to Celebrate September?

By the time you read this, it will be September, and fall will be just around the corner. September, like every month, is filled with commemorative days, special weeks, and month-long celebrations. And when you've got a deadline to meet just a few days before the month begins, what better way to celebrate and meet your contractual obligations than looking at all these special days?

It's unusual for me to write this before September even begins, because I'm usually a few days late for this kind of thing, which is why Be Late for Something Day (September 5th) is my day. The planners probably meant to have it on the 1st, but didn't get their act together in time.

It's Fight Procrastination Day on the 7th, and I should probably make some joke about celebrating later, but that's too predictable, so I'll skip it. You can thank me on the 21st, when it's World Gratitude Day.

September is both International Square Dancing Month and Self-Improvement Month, which, I think if you celebrate one, you're not allowed to celebrate the other.

And now that I've managed to offend both square dancers and the self-help crowd, let me tell you about Pardon Day on the 8th. It's the day where we seek forgiveness where it's needed. It's the day we say "pardon me" or "excuse me" or "I'm sorry, I was just going for a cheap joke. Please don't do an angry clog dance in front of my house."

For those of you who don't want to celebrate Self-Improvement Month, but instead see September as I Have An Empty Hole In My Life Self-Loathing Month, there are plenty of comfort food days for you. There's Cream-Filled Donut Day on the 14th, Chocolate Milkshake Day and National Cheeseburger Day on the 12th and 18th respectively.

September is also Better Breakfast Month, and with a donut, a chocolate milkshake, and a cheeseburger, breakfast can't get any better. Well, almost. International Bacon Day is always the Saturday before Labor Day (September 1), which means it's August 30 this year, and we missed it by thismuch for September.

In the spirit of Be Late For Something Day, we could just celebrate International Bacon Day whenever we felt like it this month.

For dessert, it's National Apple Dumpling Day on the 17th, National Butterscotch Pudding Day on the 19th, and Cherries Jubilee Day on the 24th followed by Tell Me What Cherries Jubilee Are Day on the 25th. The 26th is No Seriously, I Don't Know What Cherries Jubilee Are Day.

And don't let me forget Cheese Pizza Day on the 5th, which is followed by Why Even Bother? Day and Seriously, Who Doesn't Like Pepperoni? Day.

Speaking of apples and apple dumplings, it's Johnny Appleseed Day on the 26th. As every good Hoosier knows, Jonathan Chapman may have spent a lot of time in Ohio, but his remaining years were in and around the Fort Wayne area. According to local legend, he's even buried in Fort Wayne in Johnny Appleseed Park, although the organizers of the Johnny Appleseed Festival (the third weekend of September) say that no one is entirely sure where he's buried. But I won't argue the point too loudly, since September is also National Courtesy Month.

For all you working families, it's Working Parents Day on the 16th. And just like every year, we would have celebrated, but we were too tired when we got home. So we heated up some Spaghetti-O's for everyone and fell asleep on the couch watching TV.

For those of you who want to be historically accurate when getting hammered while celebrating other cultures' holidays, you should know that September 16th is the actual day of Mexican Independence, and not May 5th, or Cinco de Mayo, a day where many Americans celebrate their misunderstanding of history by wearing giant sombreros and drink Corona "beer." May 5th actually celebrates Mexico's victory over the French army at the Battle of Puebla in 1862.

In what may be one of the only French military victories, the French army re-defeated the Mexicans and installed Emperor Maximilian on April 10, 1864, yet, no one puts on black berets or drinks cheap red wine on that day. Maybe we should celebrate Surprising French Military Victory Day next April.

If you have any other great ideas for celebratory days in September, let me hear from you. But you'd better hurry, because the deadline is September 10th, which is Swap Ideas Day.



The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on Amazon.com
---

Like this post? Leave a comment.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Too Lazy; Couldn't Be Bothered

"Kids these days," said Karl, rolling his eyes at me.

What'd I do? I asked.

"I said 'kids,' not middle-aged men," he cackled.

Whatever, King Old Fart, I said. Karl is my 60+ year old curmudgeon friend who calls me Kid, since I'm nearly 20 years younger than him. We were at First Editions, our favorite literary bar, where Karl was supposed to do a reading of one of his short stories. He liked to have a couple drinks before he read, because he always got stage fright at his own readings. The biggest bag of wind I knew could talk at length about any topic, whether he knew anything about it, yet he still got stage fright reading his own stuff.

So what put this burr in your saddle? They running amok on your lawn again?

"No, nothing like that. I was talking to my grandson last week, and I asked him if he had read my last short story." Karl often tried to make his 15-year-old grandson read his works in the hopes that it would spark an interest in literature in him. Or reading. Or breathing through his nose.

What'd he say?

"He said—" Karl closed his eyes and shook his head at the memory. "He said, 'No, what's the tl;dr on it?'"

Seriously, tl;dr?

"Yeah, do you know what that is?"

It's hipster Internet slang for ' too long; didn't read.'

"More like 'too lazy; couldn't be bothered.'"

Yeah, it doesn't speak too highly of the people who use it, I said. They usually use it when an article is over 500 words.

"Or 'too long; didn't understand it.'"

Yeah, that's—

"Or 'too long; too stupid to—'"

Karl, I get it, I said. I waved down Kurt the bartender and asked for two more beers. So what did you say to him? I asked.

"I asked him what it meant, and he told me the whole background, complete with the semi-colon. I said, 'it would have taken you less time to just read the damn story.'

"He said, 'You have to understand young people these days, G-pa—'"

G-pa? I said.

"Who knows. Anyway, he says I have to understand that Generation Y, whoever they are—"

People between the ages of 17 and 27, I said.

"I know who they are! I'm old, not an idiot." Karl took a big drink from his beer. "Anyway, he says, 'Gen Y gets most of its info on mobile phones. Anything longer than 300 words, and we can't be bothered. If we have to swipe our phones more than twice, then we give it the ol' tl;dr so everyone else knows they shouldn't bother.'"

Wait, so they encourage laziness?

"That's what I said. 'So you tell your mouth-breathing friends to avoid anything that might tax their tiny brains?' That's when I noticed one of his slacker friends sitting in the corner. Little punk said, 'Well, I've never actually read any of your stuff either.'"

What did you say? I asked.

"'That's not surprising. I use a lot of big words. Your lips would get tired.'"

I laughed at that.

"Poor kid didn't know what to say. 'Too dumb; couldn't respond,' I guess."

Karl finished his beer, wiped his mouth, and plonked the empty mug on the bar.

"The problem is, we're not encouraging intelligence and learning in our kids. Smart people are looked down on and ridiculed. You're considered a nerd if you read more than one book a year, and even that's pushing it!

"We had a president who took great pride in not only not reading, he had his secretary of state read briefing reports to him because he couldn't be bothered. We spend more time teaching kids math skills, to the point that literature takes a backseat, while art education is nonexistent. And this Generation Whine—"

Y, I said.

"Whatever. Generation Y seems to think that being illiterate and dumb is a badge of honor, as if possessing limited intelligence and knowledge is something to be lauded. We should encourage reading of longer works, sending people to Longreads.com to see some real writing."

So what does this have to do with tl;dr? I asked.

"It's a symptom of a bigger problem. The people who say tl;dr are proudly broadcasting their laziness to the world. The L shouldn't stand for long, it should mean 'I'm a lazy slug who can't read anything longer than 500 words without needing a nap.'"

What are you reading tonight? I asked Karl.

"The first chapter of my latest book."

Just the first chapter? That's like, what, four pages?

"Yeah, I don't want to be up there that long."



The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on Amazon.com
---

Like this post? Leave a comment.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Who Neds Copy Editors! Not Us?

This piece was written with misspellings, typos, and factual errors on purpose. And, with any luck, my newspaper editors didn't edit them out or spontaneously combust, when I sent this in.

It turns out we dont need copy editors in news-papers anymore. At least the Indianapolis Star doesn't. They have layed off their entire copy editor staff, as they prepare to move into their new offices in the Circle Centre Mall in downtown Indianapolis. (New marketing slogan: Free Cinnabon with every subscription!)

Star editor, Jeff Something — Tailor? Taylor? — calls these cutbacks a evolution — Taylor! It's Jeff Taylor! — and that their "strengthening our bridge to the future." A future where everyone is smarter and can spell and write good, thanks to the increased focus on math testing and decreased reading time in schools, as part of George Wallace Bush's No Child Remaining Behind.

Copy editors do more than just catch typoes and grammer errors. They check facts, they make sure a story flows well, like a bottle of watered down ketchup, and that the language sounds pleasing to the eye. Also, they make sure your stories make sense.

That reminds me of a joke my grandmother used to tell. It was "You can always—" No wait, "You can never—" I don't know. See a copy editor would have helped me figure it out. Or at least deleted this whole paragraph since it's like a broken pencil at the bottom of a kid's backpack when he comes home from school and drops the bag on the floor: it's pointless.

Jeff Taylor — is it Taylor? Now I'm not sure. Sort of like when you unplug the iron, but then your husband or wife asks if you unplugged the iron, and then you can't remember if you unplugged the iron, so you have to drive back to see if you unplugged the iron — said that these layoffs are there way of "recast(ing) our newsroom."

They're expanding the reporting staff, so they can "(be) responsive to the interests of our readers in real time," which from what I've seen is mostly stories about people being shot, apartment fires, and the Kardashians.

The Star plans to expand their investigative reporting, business reporting, digital media and social media, and "expanded reporting on our quality of life and things to do." So more news about fancy restaurants, microbreweries, and art galleries. But not just any old schlocky coverage. They'll have "experts" who are really smart about eating food, drinking beer, and looking at art. Expect a lot more articles on holiday food recipes too, starting each June.

According to the Indianapolis Business Journal, "some jobs" include 5 of their 11 photographers — which is, like, 75% of their total photo staff — and the entire copy editing staff, "which reviews and polishes news stories before publication."

Instead, copy editing will be outsourced to the Philippines, where young children who learned English by watching old Miami Vice videos, will proofread the articles. Or it will be done by the remaining people on staff.

And all the reporters theyre adding? The Indianapolis Newspaper Guild, which has swanky offices with burgundy carpet and a lot of leather-bound books, says this is the sixth round of layoffs at the Star in six years, and will only result in six more reporters on staff.

Which makes me wonder if Satan is possible controlling the executive leadership at Gannett, the company that owns America Today newspapers, plus a million other newspapers around the U.S.

With these latest layoffs, a lot of media professionals aren't just losing jobs, but ending careers. These are people who spent years honing their craft, and are being cast aside for more cell phone photos and restaurant reviews.

Yet newspaper executives are continually — or is it continuously? If only someone knew! — flabbergasted that their readership keeps plummeting like a fish out of water, and so they lay off the people who actually make the paper interesting and readable.

In the past, the Star has fired popular columnists and writers, and then are shocked when people quit buying the paper. So they hire a few 24-year-old replacements to write more restaurant stories, and don't understand why the numbers keep dropping, which leads to another round of cuts, and we're again back to first square.

If they truly wanted to stop the bleeding, they would instead fire the managers who keep making boneheaded decisions to cut the news staff on a newspaper.

If you made it this far, you've seen why copy editors are so important. (At least I hope so. Otherwise, I despair for our schools).

We need editors. They take bad copy like this and make it readable. They take decent copy and make it art. They're the reason your newspapers sound like they were written by literate adults, and not a bunch of mouth breathers.

The Star is showing extreme short-sightedness by removing that final layer of quality assurance, the people who make sure words are spelled correctly, grammar is correct, and that all facts have been checked and verified before publication. It's not worth it for the sake of more reporters writing more articles when the writers everyone wanted are already gone.

Because the most important thing to — Taylor! It's Taylor. I finally found it on their website.


Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons (Wikipedia, Creative Commons)

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on Amazon.com
---

Like this post? Leave a comment.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Inventing the Caller ID of the Future

"Caller ID should be more detailed," said my Facebook friend, Susan A. "'Wants help moving,' 'Going to whine,' 'Will ask to borrow money.'"

I told her I was stealing the idea, and started thinking what this could mean for people who need to know why someone is calling them. My wife and I got rid of our home landline about 10 years ago, since the only people who ever called us on it were telemarketers. We saw no reason to spend 40 bucks a month so telemarketers could call us at dinnertime only to be hung up on five seconds later.

The only thing I miss about a real telephone is being able to slam it down on tele-pests, hoping the percussive blast would rupture an eardrum, or rattle their brains enough so that they rethought their entire life plan. There's no satisfying way to stab a smartphone button with your finger and have it make the same explosive smash as a solid handset made with high-impact plastic.

So what if we could create this new caller ID that would measure your caller's true intention for calling, or better yet, tell you the hidden reason for their call? We could call it "caller QT," as in "keep it on the Q.T." The term Q.T. possibly comes from 19th century England, and means "keep it quiet." Since many people already want to block caller ID so no one know who's calling, our new caller QT system can bypass that and tell us why they want to bother us.

Let's say you're a parent of a teenage daughter, and the phone rings 20 minutes before curfew. In the old days you would have to argue with her about why she needed to be there on time, even though she and Rachel were having a great time together, before you finally reluctantly agreed that one more hour would be fine.

The new caller QT would tell you why she's calling. "Not really at Rachel's. I'm with my boyfriend, Tommy."

Then you can just answer the phone without having to listen to her lie about her whereabouts: "Tell Tommy to bring you home right now" hang up, and shout "Boom, busted!" Think of the arguments it would prevent if you could just shut that down immediately.

Or imagine you're leaving work a couple hours early on a Friday, and you get a call from your boss. In the old days, you had to answer it to see what she needed. Turns out, she needed your help with a project, and you couldn't leave.

Now with the caller QT, the message will tell you not to answer: "Going to ask you to come in early tomorrow to finish these TPS reports, because I have tickets to Robin Thicke." This tells you that you shouldn't answer the phone, and accidentally drop it. In front of a semi. From a bridge.

Similarly, when a co-worker calls, the caller QT can tell you, "Wants to remind you of your report for the committee meeting. You know, the one you've skipped for the last three weeks." You know you can safely ignore that one, since your co-worker is an overachieving bossy pants who really just needs to climb off your back.

With the new caller QT, you can know what kind of mood your mom is in. (Hint, she's not happy because you haven't called her in two weeks.) You know why your pretentious sister-in-law is calling. ("Can you watch the kids? Stephen and I want to get away for a three-day weekend because baby Molly has colic and Atticus may be coming down with chicken pox.)

And it's great for knowing why sales people are calling. The caller QT would tell you whether "you need this," "you don't need this," or "this guy won't stop talking just because you say no, and you'll end up shouting at him and slamming the phone down, which is bad for your blood pressure, and your wife is going to ask you tonight if you remembered to take your pill this morning and won't give it a moment's rest because you forgot, which will raise your blood pressure again and she'll end up screaming at you 'YOU NEED TO STAY CALM! THE DOCTOR SAID STRESS IS BAD FOR YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE!' like a hyperactive Edith Bunker."

Of course, this has to be a secret device. We can't let everyone have a caller QT, otherwise, my friends might know why I'm calling them: "Feeling bored today at the office by himself and is hoping you'll go to lunch with him so he's not sad and depressed by the end of the day."


Photo credit: Dan Dickinson (Flickr, Creative Commons

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on Amazon.com
---

Like this post? Leave a comment.