Friday, March 26, 2010

What is Karl the Curmudgeon Upset About?

What is Karl the Curmudgeon Upset About?

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2010

"I'm getting tired of all the sloppy grammar people use these days," lamented Karl, my friend and part-time curmudgeon.

What are you thinking about?

"That," he said, gesturing at my face wildly.

I still don't know what you're talking about, I said. That's some grouchy mood you're in.

"Gaah! You're killing me, Kid!" I knew what he was talking about. I just couldn't resist. "Don't end your sentences with a preposition," he said.

Fine. That's some grouchy mood you're in, jerk.

"Ha, ha," he deadpanned. "You know what I mean."

We were sitting in The Yodeling Mountaineer, a Liechtenstein bar and grill, watching the Lichtenstein national soccer championships on satellite TV. Mauren was facing Eschen for the Liechten-Stein national trophy. Eschen was beating Mauren 2-1.

You know that's not a real rule, right?

"Bull!" said Karl. "That's all our English teachers ever drummed into us when I was a kid. And I can't think your teachers were slouches when you were a kid either."

Well, ignoring your starting that last sentence with 'and,' — "Dangit!" said Karl — that whole not ending your sentence with a preposition thing is a myth perpetuated by people who haven't extended their grammar education beyond the 7th grade.

Karl sputtered and plonked his empty beer mug on the table. "I learned from Mrs. Halberstadt, a stern German woman who taught English by making us memorize all these rules. If we didn't recite them correctly, she would whack our palms with a ruler."

So? I learned it from Mrs. Taylor in the 7th grade, but that doesn't mean she was right. In fact, she was wrong about a lot of things, mostly including whether I could read "All Quiet On The Western Front."

"About what are you talking?"

Sorry, I was talking to myself. And, eww! 'About what are you talking?' That was awful.

"Hey, it's important that I practice good grammar if I am to correct these gross misuses," Karl sniffed.

I motioned for Heinrich the bartender for two more. A brown ale for me, and a doppel bock for him, I told Heinrich.

"Kid, you know full well that I'm an educated man. I'm a writer, for God's sake."

That doesn't make you a grammarian.

"It makes me more of a grammarian than you'll ever be."

Heinrich brought the beers back and set them in front of us.

"In whose mug did you pour this beer?" asked Karl.

Oh, come off it, I said. Heinrich just looked confused. I grabbed my beer and took a drink.

"You're just upset that I know more about grammar than you."

No, because if you knew anything about grammar, you would know the basic rules of ending your sentences with a preposition.

"Which are. . .?"

Basically, if you can take the word off the end of the sentence, and it doesn't change the meaning of it, you should leave it off. But if you take it off, and it changes the meaning, it has to stay.

"Now you're just confusing the issue," said Karl.

Not at all. Try 'where's it at?' If we remove the 'at," then we have 'where's it,' or actually 'where is it?' The sentence stays the same, so we can drop the 'at.'

"Told you so."

Not so fast. Now take the sentence 'what are you looking at?' Take off 'at,' and it becomes 'what are you looking?' That completely changes the sentence, so it has to stay.

"Why can't you just say 'at what are you looking?'"

Come on, would you actually say that? Can you imagine trying to intimidate some punk with 'at what are you looking?' He'd laugh in your face and then pound you.

"Whatever, Kid," said Karl.

Ooh, or maybe Robert DeNiro in "Taxi Driver," should have said 'To whom are you talking? To whom are you talking? Well, I'm the only one here.

"Now you're just making it sound stupid," said Karl.

I'm not trying that hard either. Even the strictest grammarians don't think people should speak that way.

"Kid, I don't think you know into what kind of grammar quagmire you're getting yourself."

Karl, would you just knock it off? It's not a real rule. It was created by 17th century linguists who wanted to impose rules on the English language. And since Latin sentence structure doesn't allow for prepositions at the end of a sentence, they made that rule for English too. But the rules just don't work, and they've been perpetuated by misinformed English teachers for centuries.


Would I lie to you about language?

Karl thought for a moment. "No, I guess not. That's not something you've ever messed with."

That's better, I said.

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Fishers, Indiana Seeking Google Fiber. Made Me Sing Lady Gaga

This past Sunday, I joined 199 of my fellow Fishers residents and we shot a video, singing about the virtues of the Google Fiber network, to the tune of Lady Gaga's "Paparazzi." Mercifully, we weren't in the video very long, and you can barely see me, and only if you know where to look (hint: I'm NOT the guy at the beginning of the video. That's Caleb, and that really is him singing. The whole thing was put on by the Town of Fishers and the Fishers Chamber of Commerce.)

Yes, I even sang. That's how bad I want this. I sang a freaking Lady Gaga song! Now, if I can sing a Lady Gaga song, you can certainly take just 3 minutes to show Google why Fishers deserves the fast, new fiber network they're going to give to a few lucky cities or towns in the United States.

You can read more about Fishers' quest to get some of that Google Fast Fiber at the Professional Blog Service blog.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wayback Wednesday: Making Technology Easy

Every Wednesday, I republish old columns from years past. I've got 16 years of the things sitting in the garage, so they might as well serve some other purpose. This is one I originally published in 2004.

I used to be a technology whiz when I was younger. I could explain the difference between digital and analog stereo systems. I could explore the inner workings of my Macintosh computer. And I even knew how to program my VCR -- no mean feat 15 years ago.

Even today, I try to stay current with the latest technological trends. After all, technology has become such an integral part of our lives. We can watch TV on our computers. We can listen to the radio on devices the size of a pen. Cell phones, PDAs, and wireless laptops make it possible to communicate across vast distances without being tied down by cables and cords.

Even this column is made possible through email. While most people are reading this online, there are a few thousand people who read it in an honest-to-God real newspaper. But even then, it gets sent to the editor via email.

So technology is inescapable, unless you're a Luddite, in which case I'll make fun of you, since it's not like you're using a computer to read this anyway.

And most people love technology, because it will bring about new ages of exploration and discovery. It will allow us to reach beyond the stars, or explore the ocean floors. Technology can mean the difference between life and death for the sick, and it can help form friendships between people who have never met. But mostly, we use it to play video poker while we're waiting at the airport.

I was not always the most technologically adept in college, but I could have intelligent discussions with engineers and computer programmers about the latest advances in their field. I even maintained my level of interest as I entered the workforce, and used computers on a daily basis.

So I was in for a bit of a shock when I started working for a software company this year.

I've always considered myself fairly accomplished: I can frame a house, I can cook a gourmet meal from memory, and I can even speak in front of large crowds. But compared to the people I work with, I am to technology what a lit match is to a welder's torch.

And while I still respect technology, I'll never fully grasp its intricacies or subtle nuances. Instead, I leave that to the professionals and people who can tell you why they have to carry more than four pens in their pocket.

I know a guy whose idea of fun is to design and build electronic devices, whereas my idea of fun is to point a little box at a big box, and then the magical people who live inside the big box put on a show for me.

Needless to say, I feel like the caveman who discovers fire when some guy pulls up in a Ferrari and hands me a CD.

Working in the software industry has brought me in contact with a lot of technology experts, who I affectionately refer to as Tech Geeks (although not to their faces, since I'm afraid they'll electrify my office chair). And I try desperately to understand what they're saying to me, but I'm afraid the glazed look in my eyes will give me away. Basically, this is all I hear:

Tech Geek: We have to interface the fleeble with the grabnitz, or else we'll spalt the diodium cathodes.

Me: Splunge.

Tech Geek: But here's the exciting part. If we schmurtz the diodes with the fleurium-cooled coprosticulators, we'll actually be able to calculatize the yodat of a quaznot. Isn't that cool?!

Me: Yarp.

The worst part is, that as I look into their eyes, I can feel them mentally pleading with me to comprehend what they're saying. And they'll even adopt the international communication method of speaking louder, as if shouting will somehow make me understand.


Me: I like candy.

Unfortunately, I only partially understand what they're saying, because I'm not even sure they're speaking English. Either that, or I recently suffered a blow to the head, and I haven't understood a single word anyone has said to me for months.

I suppose I could spend more time learning about technology. I could delve into the mysteries of electronics, computer programming, and even computational physics. And I've been asked on several occasions why I don't spend more time doing this. To that, I have one simple answer:


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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Phone It In Sunday: Your My Documents from Back of the Class

From those crazy kids at Back of the Class. It's Abbott and Costello meets the Laptop. Apparently it's been on Funny Or Die for a year, but someone just now told me about it.

This is why I will only teach people about computers if they have a bare minimum of computer skills. If you can read this, you have them.

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Friday, March 19, 2010

Shut Up Back There: A Movie Etiquette Guide

Shut Up Back There: A Movie Etiquette Guide

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2010

I rarely go to movies anymore. My wife and I go about once a year, and take the kids a second time, but that's about it. Part of it's the prices of the tickets and concessions, part of it is the general schlock they put out, but mostly, it's the rude and obnoxious people who sit near me.

I can't stand movie talkers. The annoying people who yammer on with a running narrative of the film, or something they forgot to do.

"Ooh, jeez, I can't look. I think this is where he gets shot! Marnie said he gets shot here."

"Does he die?"

"She didn't say. By the way, that reminds me, we have to get Marnie a birthday card before we get home."

"And some milk. We're out of milk. You know what sounds good right now? Pancakes. I'll make pancakes for breakfast tomorrow. But I'll need some eggs and—"

"Oh God, she shot him! I can't believe she shot him."

"Probably because he was talking during the freaking movie!" I want to shout. But I don't, because I know somehow, I'll end up looking like the jerk..

I remember several years ago, before my wife and I were married, we went to a movie that was nearly sold out. In the row behind us, two women were whispering loudly after the movie started. Not the previews, the actual movie.

I can tolerate whispering during the previews, because they don't count. It's like going to the bathroom during commercials. But when the opening dialog comes, that's when you're supposed to be quiet out of consideration for those around you.

I turned around. "Excuse me, I'm trying to watch the movie," I said to the two gabbers.

"Well, go ahead," one of them said, snottily.

"Well then, shut up," I said, more snottily.

"No!" retorted the woman childishly, looking at me like I had just picked my nose and stuck my hand in her popcorn. But they never said another word during the entire show.

Erik 1, movie talkers 0.

I'm not advocating telling people to shut up during a movie. After all, there's a right way and a wrong way to handle things. And with the overdeveloped sense of righteous outrage in this country, there are bound to be fights that break out just because someone is whispering to their seat mate "where have I seen that woman before? Was she in a toothpaste commercial?"

Still, there's a time when you should be allowed to talk in the theater, and a time when it's strictly forbidden. And when there is nothing going on, you should be allowed to talk.

Nearly 20 years ago, I was at a movie with a girlfriend, and we were talking and laughing in the nearly empty theater. I say "nearly empty," because two rows and several seats away was another couple. There were no previews, no commercials (this was the day before movie theaters realized they could charge for all that dead air before a movie). Just a dark screen in a well-lit room.

As we joked around, the guy — who was 30 feet away — turns to us and said, "Are you going to do that all night long? Keep it down."

"Why, are you afraid you're going to miss something?" I answered, pointing at the still-dark screen.

The guy looked at the empty screen and turned away a little embarrassed. We toned it down, but didn't stop completely. We weren't going to let some whiny twit spoil our fun. We were quiet for the movie however, and when it was all over, Captain No-Fun scurried off after his wife, not wanting to meet our gaze.

Erik 1, movie whiners 0.

Movies are meant to be an escape for us, a brief respite from all the garbage going on in the real world. For just 90 minutes (or three days, if it's a James Cameron movie), we get to forget what's going on around us, in real life. We don't watch movies about having to pay bills, work for a boss we hate, or the long-running argument we're having with the company that completely screwed us over on that thing we had to do. We want to forget that, and watch someone else's life for a while.

So it really harshes our movie buzz when some clueless nitwit is talking to another clueless nitwit in our ears, just at the most important moment of the movie.

"The father of my baby is—"

"Crest! She was in that Crest commercial. You know, that year Trevor had to go to the doctor about his eczema?"

By the way, please vote for me for the Hoosier Hullabaloo 2010 Award. My good friend Doug Karr is currently winning, 98 votes to my 4. But I know with my readers, I can beat him.

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Phone It In Sunday: Baba O'Reilly Cover by

If you only see one The Who cover by a group of techno-geeks this year, make sure it's this one.

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Friday, March 12, 2010

Indiana Student Suspended for Just Saying No

Indiana Student Suspended for Just Saying No

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2010

I thought we were safe here in Indiana. I thought we didn't do Zero Tolerance. Turns out the stupidity and harm of this blinded-to-logic-and-reason way of thinking has hit the Hoosier state.

Seventh grader Rachael Greer, at River Valley Middle School in Jeffersonville, Indiana (a suburb of Louisville, Kentucky), ran afoul of the Zero Tolerance thick-headedness last week for — wait for it — briefly handling a pill handed to her by another student.

According to a story on WAVE3's website (Louisville's NBC affiliate), Rachael said her incident happened on February 23, when another girl in her class came into the the girl's locker room carrying a bag of Adderall pills, a prescription ADHD drug. The girl told Rachael and another girl about the pills, and she stuck one in Rachael's hand. Rachael said "No, I'm not taking this," handed it back, and went to gym class.

Rachael has been in DARE class for several years, and she knew what she was supposed to do: just say no. So she did. She told her classmate she didn't want it, stuck it back in the girl's bag, and left.

End of story, right? No, of course not. This is a Zero Tolerance school. That means they operate with a strict, almost Terminator-like adherence to draconian punishments meant to discourage students, harm reputations, and possibly ruin higher education opportunities.

So it's not too surprising that an assistant principal showed up at Rachael's next class and pulled her out. Apparently the original pusher, and a few other students, had been caught with the pills. One of them said Rachael had touched a pill for a few seconds.

And it was that brief physical contact that made all the difference in the world. School policy was clear: Rachael was to be carted off to a rock quarry at a juvenile delinquent work camp, and made to break rocks for three weeks.

Just kidding, she was suspended for five days. But you probably weren't too surprised about the work camp thing, were you?

But I hope you're asking, "what did she do that was so wrong?"

Apparently nothing. At least that's what Rachael's mom, Patty, believes.

"I'm proud her conscience kicked in and she said, ‘No, I'm not taking this. Here you can have it back,'" Patty Greer told WAVE3.

The problem is that according to the Greater Clark County Schools (official motto: teaching your kids the Earth is flat since the Great Flood killed all the dinosaurs), even touching a pill constitutes drug possession, and they had absolutely no leeway to exercise any kind of common sense or make an exceptions to the rule.

Rules, after all, are rules, no matter how severe or asinine they are. And rules are to be followed blindly, without allowing administrators to exercise any sort of personal judgment or free thinking.

Erin Bojourquez, a spokeswoman for the Greater Clark County Schools, told the Louisville Courier-Journal, that even though Rachel "gave the pill back, she was punished because she handled the pill."

So, let me make sure I understand this: Rachael attends DARE classes. Rachael learns to just say no. Someone sticks a pill in her hand, and Rachael says no. And when she tells the truth about it, she gets suspended for doing everything she's supposed to do.

In other words, school officials have made it necessary for Rachael and other students to lie in the future to avoid stupid punishments.

Rachael's mom, Patty, was naturally upset. She went to school officials to see just how far their heads were up their backsides. Not too far, since they could apparently hear her enough to answer her questions.

"He said she wrote it down on a witness statement and she had told the truth, he said she was very, very honest, and he said he was sorry he had to do it, but it was school policy," Patty said.

WAVE3 asked Martin Bell, COO of the Greater Clark County Schools, what would have happened if Rachael had told a teacher about the drugs. He said she still would have been suspended. District officials told the TV station, "if they're not strict about the drug policies, no one will take them seriously."

Yeah, that makes sense. They're also taking school and district officials seriously too.

And by "taking them seriously," I mean "think they're a bunch of jack-booted thugs with education degrees and no common sense."

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sean Penn Thinks I Should be Jailed if I Say "HUGO CHAVEZ IS A DICTATOR"

I never agree with Fox News. Never, ever, EVER, EVER.

Except now.

They're dropping the hammer on actor Sean Penn (You may remember him from such movies as "Milk" and "I Am Sam." And for beating the hell out of news photographers), because Penn wants to have journalists jailed — jailed! — if they dare say "HUGO CHAVEZ IS A DICTATOR."

Chavez, the president of Venezuela, is often called a dictator by the American press. (They're doing it here, here, and of course, the Irish are doing it here.

So needless to say, it gets Sean Penn's panties in a bunch when someone in the media says "HUGO CHAVEZ IS A DICTATOR." If we're not careful, it may make him get all punchy. His latest punch-up could result in him spending 18 months in jail. (That's Penn there with the dictator President Chavez in 2009.)

In the media's defense, when I Googled "Hugo Chavez dictator," the first 20 or so results that came up were all news stories about Sean Penn stamping his feet when people say "HUGO CHAVEZ IS A DICTATOR." That's like me saying, "don't think about gray elephants" and then getting pissed because you thought about gray elephants.

Penn appeared on "Real Time with Bill Maher," and delivered this First Amendment-damning sound bite:
"Every day, this elected leader is called a dictator here, and we just accept it, and accept it. And this is mainstream media, who should -- truly, there should be a bar by which one goes to prison for these kinds of lies."
There's also a bar by which one goes to prison for punching people doing their living, but apparently we don't talk about that.

In other words, saying "HUGO CHAVEZ IS A DICTATOR," and other phrases protected by the First Amendment is wrong, but beating the bejeezus out of a guy whose job it is to take celebrity photos is okay?

Either way, it sounds like Penn is angling for that special Communist of the Year award for wanting to suppress freedom of the press in all its forms. Including those forms where people say HUGO CHAVEZ IS A DICTATOR."

Solidarity, Comrade. Enjoy the Gulag.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wayback Wednesday: Another Reason Not To Order Pea Soup

Another Reason Not To Order Pea Soup

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2004

Every Wednesday, I republish old columns from years past. I've got 16 years of the things sitting in the garage, so they might as well serve some other purpose. This is one I originally published in 2004.

If I had to give one important piece of advice today, it would be this:

Tip your waitstaff.

These people are your waiters and waitresses, bartenders and baristas (that’s Italian for"person who pours you a fancy $4 cup of coffee and then has the stones to ask for a tip afterward”). They are the people who have devoted this stage of their career path -- and in some cases, their entire careers -- to serving you, providing you with nourishment, and making sure you have a pleasant dining experience.

And yet they do it for less than $2.50 an hour, plus tips. So you would think that diners would remember this, and tip their waitstaff appropriately. Unfortunately, many diners have the keen awareness of a steamed clam, so it’s not very likely.

So here is the basic rule of restaurant tipping: 15% for regular restaurants and 20% for nice restaurants. If you got exceptional service, increase it by 5%. If you got poor service, decrease it by 5%. Do NOT, under any circumstances, ever fail to leave a tip. You wouldn’t want your boss to refuse to pay you because you turned in your weekly report a day late; don’t deprive your waitstaff of a living just because they made a mistake.

I remember my own days as a bartender, working in a small, blue-collar bar that was so smoky, I was a second-hand smoke class action lawsuit unto myself. While most of my customers understood the concept of tipping, and practiced it regularly, it was a complete mystery to one regular named Walter.

Walter was a huge, burly guy who worked as a bouncer at the local strip club. Everyone could easily picture him killing a grizzly bear with his bare hands. He also had this strange idea that tipping me would make other people think he was gay. His solution was to never tip me, although he tipped our female bartender lavishly. My response was to give him minimal service. And to spread rumors that I had seen him wearing women’s undergarments on more than one occasion.

It was during this time that I learned how important it is, not only to tip your waitstaff, but to be kind to them as well. This means no yelling, no insults, no trying to make yourself feel better at their expense.

This is especially important if they have not brought your food out to you yet.

Why? Because every waiter and waitress learns very early how to spit in someone’s food and then hide it before they bring your plate to you. And if it’s one of those restaurants that manage to attract a lot of jerks -- usually tourist restaurants in vacation spots -- then they get a lot of practice.

Did you yell at your waitress and nearly bring her to tears when she brought your drinks? Then why was she smiling so much when she delivered your plate? A warm sense of forgiveness and love?

Not hardly. It’s more likely that she hawked a big one into the garlic mashed potatoes you were yelling about earlier.

It was also during my bartender days that I came up with the idea for the PITA charge. The PITA is a fee that the waitstaff can charge diners based on how much of a PITA they are, and then tag it onto your check.

Ask your waiter for six separate checks for your group and then insist on paying them all yourself? 5% PITA charge.

Ask for something not on the menu? 10% PITA charge.

Order something and then insist you never ordered it? 15% PITA charge and a dope slap from the bartender. Or Walter.

Yell at your waiter or waitress? 25% PITA charge and a big loogey in your Fettuccine Alfredo. From Walter.

While the PITA charge would primarily be a way for waiters and waitresses to be compensated for some of their more trying customers, it would also serve as an educational tool to those people whose parents never taught them proper restaurant manners.

Some restaurants have already implemented this charge, and they tell you so right on their menu. Do you see that line that says "18% gratuity automatically added for parties of 6 or more?" That’s the manager’s polite way of saying, "We already know you’re going to be jerky, so we’re just gonna add the PITA charge now."

Look, I know I said it once before, but this piece of advice is so important, it’s worth repeating: Always, always, ALWAYS tip your waitstaff.

You never know exactly what they’re spitting into your food back there.

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Sunday, March 07, 2010

Phone It In Sunday:'s Presidential Reunion Video

Funny Or Die did a great job pulling together every presidential SNL actor for this great reunion video.

SNL veterans will remember that Phil Hartman was President Reagan in the 1980s, but he was murdered by his wife in 1998. Older veterans will remember that Joe Piscopo played Reagan before that (1980-84), but is no longer funny.

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Friday, March 05, 2010

Viking Settlers Found in Utah. Sort Of.

Viking Settlers Found in Utah. Sort Of.

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2010

Erik is out of the office this week, so we are reprinting a column from 2003. Apparently, they had computers back then, because we were able to retrieve this from what archaeologists call a "floppy drive."

One of the problems with our educational system is that teachers continue to give students bad information. We're not talking small mistakes, but huge epic mistakes that completely undermine American history.

Whenever anyone tells me that Christopher Columbus discovered America in 1492, I always explain how Columbus actually landed on the island of Hispaniola in 1492 (what is now Haiti and the Dominican Republic), and then in Jamaica in 1494. I also explain how, despite what we've been told, Columbus never actually stepped on North America.

Never ever. Ever. Not even a little.

In fact, it was Viking explorer Leif Eriksson, son of Erik the Red (who I was named for), who landed in Canada around the year 1000, 492 years before Columbus ever set sail into this hemisphere.

However, most historians believe that the Vikings only headed westward, into the United Kingdom, Iceland, and Greenland. What they don't realize is that they actually landed in the South Pacific as well.

According to a story that ran in the Salt Lake City Tribune as well as several smaller newspapers in southern Utah, Viking explorers landed on a coral-based island on April 1, 956. These explorers, sent by King Eric Blodosk, settled the island and named it Himmelsk, which means "Shouldn't there be another vowel near the end?"

The Vikings lived on Himmelsk for years, until it broke loose from the sea floor, and was carried by a tsunami to North America. The several thousand foot high wave carried the island and her frightened settlers for nearly 750 miles inland until it landed in modern-day Cedar City, Utah.

The settlement remained in place until 1845, when American explorers sent by President James Polk discovered the settlement. And like we did with so many other groups who were there first, our government tricked the Vikings out of the settlement, and destroyed it.

In October 2002, Cedar City Mayor Gerald Sherratt announced the discovery of Viking artifacts in a nearby cave. And based on a number of calculations, it was determined that the US Government owed the descendants of the Blodosks $88.7 billion.

So an agreement was reached with the Blodosk heirs that they could reclaim ownership of the old homestead from April 1st to April 10th, beginning in 2004.

By now, I hope, you're saying to yourself, "Wait a minute! Since when can a tsunami wave tear a South Pacific island from the ocean floor and carry it thousands of miles to southwest Utah without killing everyone on the island?!"

Well, it didn't really happen. If you recheck the date of the anniversary, you'll see that the Himmelsk festival starts on April Fool's Day. In other words, it's a big joke. The fine folks at Cedar City are hoping that the newly developed Himmelsk festival will become a huge tourist attraction for their fair city. And Mayor Sherratt and his staff have been advertising the festival in local newspapers in southern Utah.

So are you surprised that someone is trying to find a way to get their hands on all that money? Of course not.

According to the Salt Lake City Tribune, Cedar City officials began receiving calls and letters from residents of St. George, Utah, who claim to be descendants of the Himmelsk settlers, and therefore were entitled to some of the money and treasure.

Cedar City officials explained that the story was just a publicity stunt to promote the festival, and that there wasn't any treasure to begin with. So the St. George Golddiggers (as I now call them) accused them of conspiring in a huge cover up, and still claim they should be given part of the treasure.

Surprised? Yeah, me either.

This story is a prime example of the greed and stupidity that run rampant through society today. First, there are people in this world who are so greedy and dishonest that they would lie about a festival that's supposed to bring enjoyment to thousands of people. Second, that people believe there WAS a tsunami that carried a small island for thousands of miles without killing everyone on it. Third, the Golddiggers think everyone else is stupid enough to believe they're descended from a fictitious king in the hopes that someone might accidentally give them the fictitious $88 billion.

So I won't be surprised if the St. George Golddiggers hire a lawyer to try to get this nonexistent money. If it happens, I hope Mayor Sherratt runs them through with a Viking sword.

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Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Wayback Wednesday: Validation! I Crave Validation!

Validation! I Crave Validation!

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2005

Every Wednesday, I republish old columns from years past. I've got 16 years of the things sitting in the garage, so they might as well serve some other purpose. This is one I originally published in 2005.

Writing is a psychologically dangerous profession. We writers tend to be insecure anyway, which is why we choose such an isolated activity. But we open ourselves up to criticism and rejection whenever we let other people read our stuff. We send it out to be evaluated, judged, and deemed "suitable for publication" by people who believe they're qualified to do so.

These people are called editors. We writers have more. . . colorful names for them.

The problem is that writers take rejection personally. It's not just that our work wasn't good enough or the right fit for that publication. We think there's something wrong with us as people. Our souls are stained. We've got some fundamental flaw in our psyches that the editors recognized, but we don't. This is what we believe deep down in the dark places we never talk about with our loved ones, but share it with our readers in our columns.

"Don't take it personally," other writers, like Stephen King, and his multi-million dollar empire, tell us. "Just resubmit it somewhere else."

Tell you what, Stephen, I'll stop taking it personally as soon as you funnel your next book advance my way. Until then, I'll shred my rejection letters, gnash my teeth, and have my payback fantasies against these nay-sayers of my life's work.

I remember, with particular venom, two editors in particular. One was an editor of a publication who decided he didn't want to be bothered with the dirty rabble of writers who distracted him from putting out a magazine. So he had a rejection stamp made, and he stamped it on everyone's submission and sent it back.

I know, because the little weasel rubber stamped "Does not meet our needs" on one of my pieces. No note, no form letter with my name hand written in, no feedback of any kind. Just a rubber stamp on my submission letter.

Other writers told me to get my own stamp that said "Doesn't know s---", stamp it on his rejection, and send it back to him. I didn't, but I did take a lot of satisfaction when his magazine folded a couple years later.

Apparently his magazine didn't meet its readers' needs. I wonder if they had a stamp for that.

Then there was the guy who ran his own website 10 years ago, and listed all the humor writers on the web. I had been writing for about a year, had my own website for a few months, and was very excited to find that I made the list. A month later, I wasn't on it anymore, so I emailed him and asked why.

"You're not that funny," he responded.

Jerk. I mean, it's one thing to say "I don't like it." But it's a completely different thing to make a universal statement like "YOU are NOT funny." It's a devastating blow to anyone, but especially to an insecure writer. But I never even considered quitting. I just focused on my writing, worked at it, and made it better.

And over the past 11 years, I've gotten funnier. My column appears in print and online, and is read by over 10,000 people each week. Meanwhile, this guy's website -- a LIST of funny people, mind you, not his own work -- went under less than a year later. Now who's the funny one? The guy who creates the humor and is still published over a decade later? Or the guy who just stood on the sidelines and watched other people do it?

There's an old saying that goes: "Those who can write, do. Those who can't, edit. Those who can't edit make stupid lists about people they wish they could be."

Not that I'm bitter. I just have an overdeveloped sense of Schadenfreude about people who didn't believe in me when I was starting out.

I've been thinking about these two editors a lot as I've been working on my first book. It's a collection of previous Laughing Stalk columns, and I'm very optimistic about it. I'm nervous about sending it out because, well, I'm a writer, and we're very insecure about that sort of thing. But I'm keeping a positive mental attitude about it all.

And I'll meet these two guys again. It will be at the launch party of my book, or at one of my many book signings around the country. They'll introduce themselves, and say "Hey, do you remember me? I'm the guy who. . ." and they'll remind me of their story, and how we didn't believe in you, but wow look at how far you've come I'm glad you're so successful.

I'll thank them and give them a copy of my book to show there's no hard feelings. They'll get a picture taken with me and say they're looking forward to reading my book.

Then I'll hand them my ticket, slip them a couple bucks, and have them retrieve my car from valet parking for me.

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