Friday, August 26, 2011

There is No Known Cure for Earworm

There is No Known Cure for Earworm

Erik is out of the office this weeks, so we are reprinting a column from 2003.

The earworm is a fascinating creature. It shows up unexpectedly and burrows into your brain. No one knows how to get rid of it, or how it gets there in the first place. It seems to feed — even thrive — on your annoyance at its repetitive mating cries.

"It's a world of laughter; A world of tears; It's a world of hope; And a world of fears; There's so much that we share; That it's time we're aware; It's a small world after all."

Before you shriek in agony and race off, desperately looking for a neurologist or pest control professional, don't worry: "earworm" is a German word borrowed by Dr. James Kellaris, marketing professor at the University of Cincinnati. Also known as "Stuck Tune Syndrome" or the "Dear God, Please Kill Me Now Effect," an earworm is that annoying song that gets stuck in your head and won't leave. Which means you're forced to hear it over and over and over and over and over.

And over.

"It's a small world after all; It's a small world after all; It's a small world after all; It's a small, small world."

Kellaris has been researching the phenomenon since 2000, conducting several surveys to see how many people are afflicted with earworm.

"I quickly learned that virtually everybody experiences earworms at one time or another," he told the Associated Press. "I think because it's experienced privately and not often a topic of conversation, maybe people really long for some social comparison. They want to know if other people experience what they experience."

So last year, Kellaris surveyed 500 students, faculty, and staff at the University of Cincinnati. He discovered that songs like "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," Chili's restaurant "baby back ribs" jingle and "Who Let the Dogs Out" are common earworm targets.

Thanks for that, Doc. Now all three are in my head at once.

However, the number one choice was "Other," meaning most people picked a song not on the list. So Kellaris concluded that earworms are based on individual factors, like whether a person is a musician or music lover, if they're exposed to music on a regular basis, and even their level of neurosis.

"There is just one moon; And one golden sun; And a smile means friendship to everyone; Though the mountains divide; And the oceans are wide; It's a small world after all."

Kellaris actually proves the idiosyncrasy of the earworm occurrence. The former professional-Greek-Bouzouki-player-turned-professor says his own personal earworms are Byzantine chants, which made many of his colleagues wonder why Professor Hoity-Toity couldn't just hear "Y.M.C.A." like the rest of us.

However, Kellaris believes his own earworms may be a result of his wife's job as a church choir director, which caused his colleagues to hang their heads in embarrassment and mumble an apology.

Several years ago, I had my own personal earworm — a song I had heard performed by an African missionary — that came and went for several months. The song was nothing more than the guy badly singing "God Bless Africa."

He just sang the line "God Bless Africa" dozens of times before topping it off with "Feed her children; Guide her leaders." And then he sang a second, identical verse ("a little bit louder, a little bit worse"), and then a third that sounded just like the one before it.

I swore that if he launched into a fourth verse, I was either going to leave the room or tackle him right there at the pulpit, but apparently he recognized that most people had had enough, and so he saved us all (and himself) by stopping.

My regular cure for an earworm is to mentally sing the chorus of a dirty song from "The State," an MTV sketch comedy show from the mid-90s. However, I felt guilty about using a PG-13 song to get rid of a religious earworm, so I had to use "Row Row Row Your Boat," which became an earworm in itself. Then I could sing the dirty song.

Kellaris said he has received hundreds of emails from all over the world, asking for advice, and providing personal stories. There have been several suggestions on how to cure earworm, including chewing on a cinnamon stick, passing the earworm to someone else by singing it to them, or singing the theme to "Gilligan's Island."

Unfortunately, there seems to be no cure for earworm. It strikes at any time, and can be any song, commercial jingle, or music from, say, a ride at a well-known theme park that certain members of my family visited without bringing me a souvenir, so I'm forcing them to relive their own personal earworm hell.

"It's a small world after all; It's a small world after all; It's a small world after all; It's a small, small world."

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My NEW book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing will be coming out in September. You can get it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or get it for the Kindle or Nook now.


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Friday, August 19, 2011

I May Not Know Much About Art

I May Not Know Much About Art

We always think of the art world as being rather genteel and well-heeled. No sensational or controversial stories, unless someone stole a painting from a museum, snuck it back in with a forgery painted over it, and the thief slept with the attractive female insurance investigator trying to track down the missing painting.

Or is that the Thomas Crown Affair?

There's the occasional news story about how a famous painting was sold at auction for a kajillion dollars, making the rest of the world wish we had that much money to spend on a single painting. Or that we had as much money as was spent on the painting. Or that the buyer would adopt us.

Some of these objets d'art — which is French for "dart objects" — disappear from the public view, into some private (i.e. snooty) art collection, where the very wealthy study their newly-purchased paintings, cackling with glee and rubbing their hands together. At least that's what I tell myself to make myself feel better at not having a kajillion dollars.

Other works that are purchased for the price of 80 teachers' salaries make everyone wonder what the big deal is, and why, if anyone had that much money, they didn't spend it on something much better. Like "Dogs Playing Poker."

It's times like this that I really understand the saying, "I may not know much about art, but I know what I like." And as a mature and responsible adult, I also know that I should not try to destroy art I don't like.

Susan Burns of Arlington, Virginia, has yet to figure that out, and she's 53 years old.

She's also bat crap crazy.

Burns was arrested at the National Gallery of Art on August 5th after she slammed the Henry Matisse oil painting, "The Plumed Hat" against a wall three times, and damaged the painting's frame. She was charged with, among other things, destruction of property for trying to break the $2.5 million painting.

The frame itself is valued at $250 — yes, two hundred and fifty dollars — which makes me feel bad for the guy who built it. How would you like to have your life's work reduced to .01% of the value of the thing it protects?

This is Burns' second arrest at the National Gallery. Back in April, she tried to destroy the Gauguin painting, "Two Tahitian Women," which depicts two bare-breasted women, and is worth $80 million. The painting was protected behind a piece of plexiglass, which she tried to punch and smash her way through, yelling, "It's censorin' time!"

Back in April, she told investigators, "I feel that Gauguin is evil. He has nudity and is bad for the children. He has two women in the painting, and it's very homosexual. I was trying to remove it. I think it should be burned."

The coincidence of her name and her view toward art notwithstanding, her actions in April don't explain her actions in August. "The Plumed Hat" frankly is not that interesting. No one is naked, the woman is rather plain, is wearing a shapeless white dress, and frankly, looks like a high school art contest entry. No one is naked, gay, or evil in "The Plumed Hat," although the hat is made with a big feather.

As part of her release, Burns signed paperwork saying that she would not visit any more art museums or galleries in the Washington DC area. Since she returned to a gallery just four months later, she's also under arrest for unlawful entry.

She also told the investigators in April, "I am from the American CIA, and I have a radio in my head. I am going to kill you."

Clearly, this is untrue, since everyone knows that 1) agents from the CIA never refer to their employer as "the American CIA," and 2) the USDA is actually the agency responsible for all art-related assassinations on American soil.

Right now, no one knows what "logic" Burns used to attack another painting, this one with a noticeable absence of boobs. Maybe she doesn't like paintings of women. Or she hates French painters. Or the feather was sexually suggestive.

Whatever her reason, something tells me we haven't heard the last of the art-hating CIA agent. Until then, museums will take extra precautions against further attacks, not only from Susan Burns, but from other morally uptight art haters around the country.

The guy who bought Dogs Playing Poker should take extra precautions.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Bloggers Needed for Indy Fringe Theatre Festival 2011

It's Indy Fringe Theatre Festival time again, and Smaller Indiana is looking for bloggers. This is the 7th year of the festival, and my 4th year to be involved as a reviewer and coordinator. Each year keeps getting better and better, and I'm hoping that we can play some small part in helping the festival grow.

This year, we'll have 56 shows, 288 shows on 6 stages over 10 days, and we've got a wide variety of shows: musical acts, magical acts, one-man and one-woman shows. If you don't like a show, don't worry, there are dozens more to choose from.

We're looking for bloggers to write about each show, and that could be you.

As a blogger, you get a chance to watch the shows you want to watch for free, as long as you write about the event. What we're looking for is that you write about your experience at the show. It can be about how much you enjoyed the show, what you liked and didn't like, the conversation that you had afterward, or even the hilarious story about you and the writer when you were in college.

Each blogger gets 2 media passes, for you and a guest, and 2 backer buttons. (If your guest also wants to write a review, they're more than welcome to.) While you do get the backer buttons and passes for free, it doesn't hurt to make a donation to the Indy Fringe. (Backer buttons are $5, and the money goes to the IFF. Tickets are $10, and that money goes to the performers.)

We ask that you write about the play within 24 hours of seeing it, and post it on Smaller Indiana. You can also post it on your own blog if you have one. The goal is to promote the play and the festival, and so the sooner you can get your review online, the better. For that reason, please see the earliest showing of your play as possible. If you can't, that's fine, but the sooner the better. If you want to see a play that has already been reviewed, that's okay. But if you have to choose between a play that has been reviewed and one that hasn't, pick the one that hasn't.

Post your story to Smaller Indiana, as well as your own blog. Be sure to tag it with IndyFringe2011 (not IndyFringe), as well as the venue where it was located:
  • CookTheater
  • ComedySportz
  • TOTS1
  • TOTS2
  • BasileTheater
  • PhoenixMain
  • IndyFringeTheater
Note that these tags do NOT have spaces in them. If you include a space, SI thinks you have two different tags.

If you tweet about the festival, use the hashtag #IndyFringe. The festival organizers are @IndyFringe. It doesn't hurt to include them in your tweets either.

Find the schedule of shows at the Indy Fringe Theatre website.

Here's the important part: if you want to review a show, you need to email me at erik [dot] deckers [at] gmail [dot] com, and then tell me which show you want to review. While you MIGHT be able to get into some of these shows over the weekend, please keep in mind that some of them like Phil the Void are wildly popular, and will sell out, so you may be better off trying for a Monday or Tuesday showing.
Show assignments are first come, first served, so the sooner you get your request to me, the better.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.---Like this post? Leave a comment, Digg it, or Stumble it.

Indiana Fever defeats New York Liberty, 82-71

We had a chance to watch our Indiana Fever take on the New York Liberty last night, and were in for a real treat. This was women's basketball at its finest — they played hard, scrambled for every ball, had some high-flying interceptions, and even a couple tackles. The final score was 82-71, which may seem like a big differential, but if you were at the game, you know different.

This was a far cry from the LA Sparks game we saw several days ago, which was more of a blowout. It was like watching a WNBA team trounce a high school basketball team. The LA Sparks didn't play like a team, everyone who got a rebound or inbound ball thought it was up to them to score, and there was one Sparks player — I won't name names — who was wide open on most drives, but no one would pass to her. She was the dorky kid on the playground that has to be included but is never involved. I felt embarrassed for the Sparks, and thought the Fever showed a lot of mercy by not scoring that 100th point. (The game finished 98 - 63, and rather than score the 100th point, Jeanette Pohlen showed a lot of class and held the ball with 7 seconds remaining, choosing not to rub the Sparks' nose in it.)

But in this game, the Fever and the Liberty were playing like it was Game 5 of the WNBA Championships. Every point was hard-fought, every rebound involved a couple of elbows, and the crowd was going crazy every second of the game.

It wasn't until the 4th quarter that the Fever finally capitalized on a few Liberty errors and were able to widen the gap before bringing the game home.

Tamika Catchings was responsible for more than a third of the total points with 32, 4 more points than the next top 3 scorers.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My NEW book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing will be coming out in September. You can get it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or get it for the Kindle or Nook now.

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Friday, August 12, 2011

The No BS Column

The No BS Column

Some people have a real problem with cursing. I won't offer any examples, but you've no doubt heard them. You might not like them, but you know what words I'm talking about. If I say "the S-word," you know what I'm talking about.

The topic about cursing and the appropriateness or inappropriateness of it in the business world has been coming up in a lot of the discussions I've had with people. And as a professional word slinger interested in the power of language, and how it makes people react, including swear words.

I read a piece on by Johanna Gohmann, who grew up in the 70s and 80s here in Indiana. She wrote about the inapporpriateness of some words, and how they make her and her family extremely uncomfortable, even to the point that she grew up not being able to say them.

Words like butt and poo were replaced with "bo" and "boo."

It was so bad, that even at age 35, she is still uncomfortable using butt. It's such a problem, that before a second date with a guy who eventually became her husband, he had texted her a message that included the word "butt" in a playful way.

This bothered her so much that while on their date, she wrote her two most hated words on a napkin and handed them to the guy.

"Moist. Butt." He read them out loud, making her sorry she wrote them in that order. And he promised not to say either of them, like "Boy, this cake sure is moist. Too bad it will make your butt big."

I just don't get it. I tried to understand why someone doesn't like the word "butt," but it just doesn't make any sense. I knew a family who didn't want their children hearing the word butt, which caused a slight problem when I said it to their 3-year-old son while my wife and I were taking care of him one evening.

"You're not supposed to say that word around him," my wife said, who had known the family for years.

"What am I supposed to say, bottom?"

"No, you can't say that word either," she said. Turns out "bottom" is the word her family used for a girl's, uh, you know. This meant she got confused and frightened whenever she heard another parent tell their own child, "If you don't knock it off, I'm going to spank your bottom!"

So we were supposed to refer to this kid's rear end as his rear end, because his parents thought "butt" was a bad word.

What were they going to do when he learned about the butt end of a rifle? Or saw a cigarette butt on the street? Or was the butt of the other kids' jokes throughout his entire childhood?

I've been thinking about swearing lately, because I have a new book coming out in 10 weeks called "No BS Social Media." Only we didn't say "BS," we actually said the real BS word.

This has caused some consternation among a few people. Not many, but I've seen some raised eyebrows over the last couple months.

It's not really that big a deal. We've all heard this word before. The bookstores are actually okay with putting it on the shelves, and my co-author Jason and I are getting some speaking engagements where they're saying the title of the book out loud without bursting into flames.

To be sure, some people are a little leery. I had an organizer of one event say she couldn't put the name, even the abbreviated name, of the book into my speaker's bio. I've got a couple friends who are militant non-swearers and they will only refer to the book as "No BS Social Media." I tell them they need to respect the integrity of the literature, but they remain steadfast.

There's a section in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy where the president of a planet says they're in "one whole jujuflop situation" (jujuflop being the most awful word you could possibly say). Everyone is actually so pleased he said it that they failed to notice their 5,000 year civilization has collapsed overnight.

I sometimes worry that the No BS book is our jujuflop. Everyone is so pleased to see someone finally has the courage to put it on a book title that they completely fail to notice everything else collapsing around us.

I don't really worry it will happen, but at the same time I'm fully aware that this book title would not have been allowed 10 years ago. Still, I'll leave this discussion up to the philosophers and big thinkers. I just write books and sell them. But all of this has me wondering one very important question:

What's wrong with "moist?"

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Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Watch the Pilot for "Rehab for Rejects" on Laughing Stalk

I had promised Jake Cooney that I would share his pilot of Rehab for Rejects with Laughing Stalk readers. I've had this in my inbox for a while, but I finally had the time to put it up on the site.

As far as the pilot and the series itself, "Rehab for Rejects" is a dark comedy about a young man court ordered to attend a rehabilitation center that specializes in alternative healing and spirituality techniques in order to cure their patients' odd and unique addictions.

The cast, even though the budget was non-existent, is amazing and includes Adam Edgar (Pushing Twilight, MEANDHer, Witt's Daughter), April Billingsley (Hellphone, Andre the Butcher, Hallows), Evan Arnold (Garfield, The West Wing, Close to Home), Maury Sterling (A-Team, Smokin' Aces, In Plain Site), Richard Riehle (Office Space, Bridesmaids, Hatchet), Casey Williams (Band Slam), Nicole Saletta (7th Heaven) and Josh McDermitt (Last Comic Standing, Retired at 35).

I also told Jake I would review Rehab for Rejects, but I haven't had a chance to watch it yet. In the meantime, please watch the pilot, and leave any comments in the, well, comments.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Streetmatching: The Death of Romance [GUEST POST]

Streetmatching: The Death of Romance

I was asked if I would like to offer a guest post from another writer, something I've never done before. The author is Patricia Garza, from Online University Rankings. I thought I would give it a try to see how it goes.

I'd like to preface this post with the quick fact that I don't hate online dating services. While I've never tried one personally, I don't look down on those who do, and it definitely wouldn't stop me from dating anyone who has. But this app I'm about to ream takes online dating to an unprecedented low.

Most online dating services work in an interesting way that allows you to find people you would be compatible with based on how you both describe yourselves. The "problem" with this type of service is that people can exaggerate certain aspects of their profile and not turn out to be the person you expect them to be.

Streetmatching attempts to "solve" this problem by connecting people you bump into in real life through their online dating service. When you run into someone you find attractive, instead of trying to start a conversation with them, you register that you saw a crush through the Streetmatching app. If they also register you as a crush, BOOM. You can email each other (so hot, I know!) through the online Streetmatching service. It's a little like Craigslist's "Missed Connections" section but not nearly as cool or ballsy (with Craigslist, you have to post publically to find that person who's number you were never able to get).

Permission to Rant

Let's slow down and take a look at what this service is actually doing. In what appears to be a social de-evolution of communication, people are now choosing to use their phones and computers to make first impressions, followed by email conversations to see if this person really is as cool as they first appeared, and then maybe they might meet in person (unless Streetmatching makes an app to replace actual dating and sex).

I've got a radical idea: Rather than running home to your computer or fiddling with your phone after seeing a hot person, why don't you actually attempt to become socially adequate and make a lasting impression or conversation with that person? Who knows, you might even be able to get a phone number?!?

One thing is for certain; I would rather have 100 awkward, disastrous first impressions than have a successful, lifelong relationship with an introduction provided by Streetmatching. Imagine telling the story of how you met to your kids. If they had any more nerve than you and your partner, they would probably disown you both.

The Cold Reality of the App

Of course, we must look at the biggest inherent contradiction written into the logic of the app. Streetmatching is attempting to put the "chemistry" and "attraction" of real life dating into their online dating network, but for a "crush" to actually have any effect or purpose at all in this app, the crush also needs to be registered into the network.

Let's be honest for just a minute; anyone who actually looks good or has an interesting or intriguing personality won't have any use for this app. So, despite the good looking models they have in their tutorial, I couldn't see this app being more than a $5 buffet for bottom-feeder net-socialites who have more of a life online and on their phone than through the eyes of physical human beings.

Author Bio:

This guest post is contributed by Patricia Garza, who writes about gadget, technology, design, social media, e-learning related articles at online university rankings.

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Friday, August 05, 2011

Gone Fishin' - A One-Sided Conversation

Gone Fishin' - A One-Sided Conversation


"Because you'll scare the fish away."


"Because they can hear us, and they'll swim away."

"No, they won't actually stay away. Who told you that?"

"That's an old wives tale. He doesn't know what he's talking about. They'll only swim away temporarily."

"A few minutes. They'll be right back."

"Look, I'll show you. Do you see those fish right there?"

"The little ones."

"No, the little ones by the thing."

"No, the other thing. It's next to the. . . right by the. . . just. . . *sigh*"

"Buddy, look where my finger is pointing."

"Okay, do you see that big rock underwater? That's what I'm pointing at."

"Now look to the left of the rock."

"No, your other left."

"Yes, the little blue ones."

"Good. Now, what were we talking about?"

"Right, right. Old wives' tale."

"Watch what happens when I drop this little rock."


"It's not going to kill the fish."

"It's not even going to land on them."

"Fine, I'll drop it away from them."

"See? They swam away."

"Just be patient. Look, there they are."

"That's right, the same exact place."

"No, let's keep fishing."

"Because I'm all out of rocks."

"Because I didn't bring you out here to drop rocks at fish."

"To drown worms."

"I'm just kidding. Rubber worms don't drown."

"I don't like real worms."

"Because it's cruel to the worms."

"What did she say it really is?"

"I am not!"

"Oh yeah? Ask her if you can get a pet mouse. Then we'll see who's a big baby."

"I just don't like touching worms, that's all."

"I hate putting them on the hook."

"Because they're slimy and I hate it when they wriggle and thrash around. I can't stick them on the hook when they do that."

"I've never liked doing that. That's why I always fish with rubber worms."

"I know, but your sister is always playing with worms and bugs."

"This was Boys' Day today. We were just going to spend time together, you and me."

"Let them go."

"I didn't bring anything to keep the fish in, and I didn't feel like cleaning them."

"Because they're slimy too, and I hate it when they wriggle and thrash around."

"If you really want fish for dinner, we'll get some fish on the way home."

"We'll have the guy behind the counter throw them to us."

"So we can tell Mommy we caught the fish."

"I know, I'm sorry."

"When I was a kid."

"Yeah, I didn't think it was funny then either."

"You ready to go, Buddy?"

"Okay, one more rock. How far can you throw it?"

"Wait, wait! I think you got a nibble."

"Shhh… no-o-o-ot yet—NOW!"

"Carefully, not too fast."

"Just a little more. Almost there. . ."

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Thursday, August 04, 2011

Everybody's Got a Body [INFOGRAPHIC]

Everybody's got a body. . . but they can be kind of icky at times.

Everybody's Got a Body
Created by: Online Nursing Schools

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

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