Friday, December 28, 2012

The Worst Words of 2012

Man, the Atlantic Wire sure hates a lot of popular words. Not just dislikes them. They. Detest. Them.

Writer Jen Doll created a list of 45 words that she grew to hate, hate, HATE in 2012, and savaged them brutally, saying we need to quit using them. Typically, writers don't actually hate the things they use on a daily basis — it's like a carpenter hating hammers — so these words must have been truly heinous and awful.

Actually, I would agree with her for most of her list, except she hated "actually."

Doll said "it's the word that you use when you're actually saying, 'you are wrong, and I am right, and you are at least a little bit of an idiot.'"

What'd I tell you? Hates it. I'm kind of iffy about the word. I use it, but I've never thought much about it. I don't go apoplectic like a lot of people did when the Associated Press said it was okay to start a sentence with "hopefully." That sent people into word rage this summer.

And we're both in total agreement with our hatred of "Baby Bump." I've never liked that word, because it's so cutesy and saccharine, like the annoying mom who expects everyone to moon over her precious child, and attend all the educationally-themed birthday parties. Baby Bump is the gossip columnist word for tell the world that such-and-such movie star is "pregnant but not fat."

I'd love it if we could start using terms like "brat bulge," "progeny protuberance," and "tot tuberosity." I may start just using "tot tuberosity" myself.

Doll also hated "historic" and "historical" because she thought they were overused. I'm personally sick of them, because every newscaster and pundit on TV likes to say "an historic" in the mistaken belief that it makes them sound smarter. As in "the 2012 presidential campaign was AN historic occasion."

It's not AN historic occasion, it's A historic occasion.

The rule is simple, and we all learned it in first grade. If a word starts with a vowel sound (not a vowel, a vowel sound), then you say "an." If a word starts with a consonant sound, you say "a." Like, "an apple" and "a banana."

Historic starts with a consonant sound, so you say "a historic." Saying "an historic" doesn't make you sound smarter, it makes you sound like you're copying every other pretentious pundit on TV who doesn't know that one basic rule either.

If there's another thing Doll and I don't like, it's "an hipster." The term is so widely used it's boring to complain about it, which makes it even sadder when it's used seriously. I've begun using it as a derogatory term about every skinny 20-something who carries 60 year old cameras and wears nerdy glasses, plaid shirts, shapeless hats, and meggings.

Thankfully the Atlantic Wire hates meggings too, which is the term for "men's jeggings." I hated jeggings when they first appeared. They make people who wear them look like a pair of tweezers wearing big clompy shoes. As a man, I'm especially horrified by the existence of meggings.

As if the original jeggings weren't bad enough, someone had the brilliant idea to make them in men's colors, as a way to further subjugate and humiliate us. No self-respecting Guy would be caught dead in meggings. And those men who wear them traded in their dignity a long time ago.

Speaking of hipsters, the Atlantic Wire hates quinoa (pronounced keen-wa). Another writer, Stefan Becket, says "I'm not entirely clear what it actually is. . . but it sounds like some bland hipster thing."

A guy named Stefan decrying hipsters? Is that irony? If you hate hipsters, call yourself "Steve" until they all go away.

Actually, I've had quinoa. It's not bad if you cover it with meatballs and a creamy Alfredo sauce.

Finally, the Atlantic Wire thinks we need to get rid of "Really?!" as "an expression of incredulity." As in, "Really?! You're mixing quinoa and rice together?"

I knew it was time to get rid of "Really?!" when my kids started using it on me. As in "Really?! You're going to make us listen to Pink Floyd again?" In fact, my son even used it on me tonight.

I told him about this article, and he said, "Actually, I don't use it as often as you think."

I've grown tired of these words almost as much as Jen Doll. Hopefully her brave work can help us stop using them before the end of 2013.

I'll spend the entire year being an hopeful Hoosier.



The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is now available. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out.

You can get both of them from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or for the Kindle or Nook.

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Friday, December 21, 2012

Dear December 12, 2012

Dear December 12, 2012,

Thanks to our technology in the 22nd century, we're able to respond to the letter you sent us 100 years ago. (Editor's note: see last week's column).

However, this is a costly and energy consuming endeavor, so we are only able to do this once. Still, our energy creation is rather easy.

As you said, we have seen Back to the Future, and many of the "futuristic" inventions in the movie, while laughable in their primitiveness (we were surprised at how many of them missed the mark), ended up inspiring many of the products we have today. Just like your Star Trek first inspired cellular phones and tablet computers, some of the Back to the Future inventions inspired ours.

In 2089, the first Mr. Fusion car power supply was invented, which solved the world trash crisis. In fact, thanks to the environmental policies you created in the 21st century, there is now very little garbage, so we face an energy crisis similar to your own oil crises of 1977 – 2037. And our children are so capable of handling new technology that many of them are given a My First Clone game when they turn five.

We're actually watching our own 12-12-12 concert, and everyone is geeking out over the concert on Badjer, a communication tool similar to Twitter that we use on our iPhone 23s, which are embedded into our bodies.

Keith Richards still looks great. He has amazed everyone at his longevity — 168 years is a long time. He's playing with Trevor Jagger and the 7th generation of the Rolling Stones.

Don't worry, Kanye West won't be around for much longer. In 2018, he and his wife, Kim Kardashian, will be exiled to a leper colony on a small island in Indonesia. Surprisingly, however, they become missionaries to the colony, and actually create a cure for leprosy. The two will share a Nobel prize in 2047, and he will be knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 2048. (By the way, that old bat doesn't die until 2063.) The West-Kardashians remained happily married until their deaths in 2051.

In 2112, we now have 54 states. Puerto Rico became a state in 2016, and was followed by Quebec, Ontario, Alberta, and Manitoba (thanks in no small part to Prime Minister Justin Bieber's incompetence that ultimately bankrupted Canada).

On the other hand, Texas seceded in 2021, after President Hilary Clinton was re-elected. They had been threatening to do it since 2012 when you re-elected President Obama, and after eight years of their whining, the rest of the country said, "Meh, let 'em go." After that, the American economy blossomed, and there has been prosperity and personal growth ever since.

We did cure cancer, and we even cured AIDS. We also embraced the gluten-free, dairy-free, meat-free lifestyle so much that everyone in North America is now susceptible to the common cold, which there is still no cure for. We live in fear of the next cold epidemic.

On the plus side, no one smokes, no one eats unhealthy food, and no one drinks alcohol. We all live to be in our 120s, easily, and most of our seniors (100 years and older) spend their time questioning whether it was really worth living this long without cigarettes, beer, and cheeseburgers.

We also became a world of yoga and tai chi practitioners. While we're all very flexible and have excellent centers of gravity, no one knows how to fight. We were nearly conquered by Liechtenstein in 2087, and it was only because President Jake G.W. Bush ordered cold-infested blankets be sneaked into a few of their regiments that we were able to repel the invaders.

Yes, Hollywood did finally change, and became more creative. For 10 years, they produced some of the greatest movies in cinematic history. And then the Writers Strike of 2067 created massive riots, and Hollywood ultimately turned into a police state, where all the movie industry people were imprisoned. Now, most of our movies come from Australia.

Those few producers who had been out of LA during the riots have also moved to Australia and returned to movie making. This year alone saw three remakes of Lord of the Rings, a second version of Rocky XLVI, and Les Miserables was made 19 more times between 2012 and 2112.

But don't worry. We overcame many of your problems, created some of our own, and found ways to turn your disadvantages to our advantages. So, thank you.

P.S. We finally got jet packs.



The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is now available. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out.

You can get both of them from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or for the Kindle or Nook.

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Friday, December 14, 2012

Dear 12-12-2112. . .

Dear December 12, 2112,

Greetings from December 12, 2012. It may be a little weird reading this letter from 100 years in the past. We imagine it's sort of like the end of Back to the Future, when Doc Brown gets sent back to 1885 and sends a letter to Marty McFly 70 years later. We realize you probably don't watch our old movies in 2112. Or at least you have 100 more years of movies, and so would not have had time to watch it. (But if you get a chance, check it out.)

We're writing this while the 12-12-12 Concert is happening, as music's greatest musicians perform in Madison Square Garden to raise funds for Hurricane Sandy recovery. Sandy destroyed and flooded most of the New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut coast. Everyone is talking about the concert on a social networking site called Twitter.

Although 2112 history may not know them, the men and women on stage tonight are some of the biggest names in rock and roll history — Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi, The Who, The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, and Paul McCartney. They were gods in their time who created some of the greatest music of the 20th century. And they came together tonight, sharing their incredible music, creating one of the greatest rock shows in history.

Also, Kanye West sang.

It's amazing how much music has changed in the last 40 years, and many of the musicians from the 12-12-12 Concert had a hand in shaping that.

And then the 21st century happened, and in retaliation for the War of 1812, Canada launched Justin Bieber at us, which signaled the beginning of the end of good music. Happily, he is not playing the 12-12-12 Concert tonight. When a group of people have been battered by Mother Nature, you don't subject them to Justin Bieber. Never kick a nation when she's down.

We wish we could see 2112 right now. There are so many things we would like to know how they turned out, just as 1912 probably wanted to know about today.

In 1912, New Mexico became the 47th state, the Titanic sank, and Fenway Park opened in Boston. In 2012, Puerto Rico wants to become our 51st state, we just re-elected our first black president, Barack Obama, and Fenway Park is still around. Did they expect any of that in 1912?

In our time, the life expectancy is in the mid-70s, people still smoke and eat fried foods, and electric and hybrid cars are becoming more popular. They barely had cars in 1912, and we have cars that can run on electricity.

We're hoping that one day we'll invent a car that can run strictly on solar energy, or even water. That seems like such a pipe dream to us, but we're sure you'll have solved that problem by the time you read this.

It's funny to look back at the culture from 1912 and see how much we still know and remember, and yet how much is lost and forgotten. Many of the songs from back then are now little children's songs today. The movies from 1912 are silent and in black and white, and people don't watch them because in 2012, we have 3-D movies and surround sound, so we feel like we're in the movies.

Of course, Hollywood couldn't come up with a new idea if you held a gun to their heads. So they remade Les Miserabl├ęs, which was first made in 1912. This is the 18th remake. We're also seeing remakes of movies that were made as recently as 10 – 20 years ago. We hope Hollywood has changed by the time you read this, although there are some limits to what people can do in a century.

We dream of what 2112 going to be like, and how far you will have grown beyond us here at the dawn of the 21st century. Will you have cured cancer, solved world hunger, and even found world peace? Is space travel possible? Have you eliminated the world's social ills, or are we still a society where erectile dysfunction medicine is still one of the most profitable pharmaceuticals?

We're sorry for what we left for you, and we hope you have the ability and foresight to fix what we created and caused. We go into our tomorrow hoping yours is even better.

All the best, December 12, 2012.

P.S. We sincerely apologize for Kim Kardashian.



The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is now available. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out.

You can get both of them from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or for the Kindle or Nook.

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Friday, December 07, 2012

Karl the Curmudgeon's Writers Feud Rages On

So how's the writers feud going, Karl? I asked. My friend and fellow writer, Karl the Curmudgeon, and I were sitting at First Edition, the literary-themed bar we had visited several months ago, when Karl decided to start a writers feud.

He chose one Rene Whitehorse as his victim, a French poet who'd had a passing acquaintanceship with "success" when his razor-thin poetry book was published by some fly-by-night publisher.

"Pretty good, actually," Karl said. "We've been attacking each other on Twitter."

How is that good? Your Twitter accounts are pretty pathetic, and a fight between you two is like a fart in a windstorm. I have more people living on my street than you two have in your network combined.

"He's also talking about me to his Poetry for Agoraphobes support group."

Is that really a thing?

"No, it's just what I call his poetry writers group. They're all reading slam poetry about The Angry Bearded Man at their little coffee shop every week." Karl signaled Kurt the bartender for a couple more Thr3e Wise Men beers.

Ooh, that's so awful, I deadpanned, rolling my eyes so hard one of them nearly got stuck. Somebody call The New Yorker.

"Hey, that's not all," said Karl. "We've actually gotten pretty nasty."

Like what? You put a 'kick me' sign on his back at recess?

"No, we nearly got into a fight at a party last month."

Oh yeah? I sat up a little straighter. This was getting interesting.

"We were at a book launch party for some creative writing prof at the University of Indianapolis, and got into a shouting match during the party. Some of the writing faculty had to restrain ol' Rancid Whitehead."

Seriously? You two almost came to blows?

"No, not really. Not unless Rancid was going to whack me with his European carry-all."

I'm sorry I missed that. What brought that on?

"I called his poetry derivative and mechanical."

That's pretty nasty. Why'd you do that?

"He said my books were formulaic."

I was glad I had missed it all. Karl and Whitehorse had made some of the worst insults you could make about a writer. Sort of like telling a fashion model her pants make her look chunky.

You didn't hit him, did you? Before I knew him, Karl had once punched a critic for comparing one of his novels to a Tom Clancy novel.

"No, nothing like that. He made that crack about my books, so I said the thing about his poetry being derivative."

Derivative of what?

"A teenage girl's dream journal."

Ooh, snap. What'd he do?

"He tried to throw a drink in my face, but I ducked, and he ended up showering a literature professor with chardonnay."

And that's when he had to be restrained?

"Yeah, so they threw us both out."

Then what. Did you guys fight in the parking lot?

"Naw. We laughed it off and got a drink."

You got what?

"A drink. We got a drink. Like this one," and he polished off his beer.

Why the hell would you get a drink with a guy you're feuding with?

"Well, we're not actually feuding. This is just a little game we're playing to boost our sales."

I stared at him dumbfounded. You mean you're faking a writer's feud? I demanded rather loudly. Karl shushed me, but it didn't matter. Other than Kurt the bartender and a couple of wanna-be novelists with earbuds crammed in their ears, scribbling in their little black notebooks, we were the only ones there.

You're faking a freaking feud? You f—

"Keep your voice down, Kid," he hissed, glancing at the scribblers, who hadn't even looked up.

Why would you do that?

"Because we wanted to generate some interest in our books. It's actually working. Conflict sells books. People hear about the fight, see it on YouTube and Facebo—"

It was on YouTube? I nearly shouted.

"—Shhhh! Yes, we had one of his poetry pals capture it on her cell phone and upload it. It's working too."

How so?

"Because it has over 40,000 views, and sales of his little poetry book tripled since then. Plus, my editor wants to talk to me about reprinting my first three books."

I shook my head slowly. As stupid as it sounded, it made a lot of sense. I drained the last of my beer. If that isn't one of the dumbest things I've ever heard, you great bearded gowk. It's about as believable as 'Hunt for Red October.'

Karl just smiled. "Forget it, Kid. I already have one fake feud. I don't need another."




The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is now available. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out.

You can get both of them from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or for the Kindle or Nook.

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Friday, November 30, 2012

Wear a Belt - With Advice to Mary Schmich, Author of Wear Sunscreen

Erik is out of the office this week, so we are reprinting a column from 1999, because we didn't think he'd notice.

With deepest apologies to Mary Schmich, columnist for the Chicago Tribune, and the original writer of the "Wear Sunscreen" column/song that was played to death on the radio.

To the Guys of North America:

Wear a belt.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, a belt would be it. Scientists have proved that exposure of your butt crack is enough to make innocent bystanders within a 20' radius laugh and point at you behind your back.

The rest of my advice has no basis in science, but is probably the result of hearing jokes on the radio, late-night latte and doughnut binges.

Enjoy the power and beauty of all the babes you see at the beach. Oh, I know, you're there with your wife, and she's the jealous type. But trust me, in 20 years, you'll look back at that time on the beach and say to yourself, "I wish I had bought those mirrored sunglasses when I had the chance."

Don't worry about the future. You'll be dead before it gets here. You know, if I were as clever as Mary Schmich, I'd say something clever about solving algebra by chewing bubble gum, but then again, that's why she works for the Chicago Tribune, and I don't.

Do one thing every day that scares you, as long as it doesn't involve snakes.

Sing in your car, but for Pete's sake, remember that other people CAN see you through the car window. No one wants to see a Guy singing "My Heart Will Go On" with Celine Dion.

Don't be reckless with other people's hearts. It leaves fingerprints, and makes it easier for the police to find you.

Floss. And brush. And use a decent mouthwash. Your morning breath could kill a horse.

Remember compliments you receive. Remember the insults even more. Hatch sinister plots to get back at those people. Sign them up for every telemarketing list you can find.

Keep your old love letters, but hide them away from your wife. Remember, she's the jealous type. Throw away your old bank statements, even though you'll need them during your upcoming IRS audit.

Don't feel guilty if you still have no idea about what to do with your life. Don't berate yourself just because you're a 33 year old slacker who lives with his parents in their basement. Some of the most interesting people I know had no direction in their lives, but they were usually on Jerry Springer.

Get plenty of calcium, or at least the kind that comes in beer. Be kind to your knees. You'll need them to carry that beer gut you're sporting.

Maybe you'll marry, maybe you'll just be a stalker. Maybe you'll divorce at 40, and go through a mid-life crisis. Maybe you'll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. But if you do, rest assured that your children are going to laugh and say "There goes Dad, dancing the funky chicken again. Maybe we should put him in a home."

Enjoy your body, but keep in mind that the stuff you're probably thinking of is still illegal in several states in the South. Don't be afraid of what other people think of your body, unless you're a male stripper. Then, your body is your bread and butter.

Dance, especially if you are a male stripper. Women won't stuff dollar bills down your G-string if you're just standing still.

Read the directions, but for God's sake, don't ever ask for any.

Do not read beauty magazines. They're for women.

Don't worry about getting to know your parents. If you don't know them by now, you have a bigger problem, like whether you'll get any of their stuff after they're gone.

Understand that friends come and go, but hold on to the ones who will help you move. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography, lifestyle, and whether or not they'll help you for beer and pizza.

Live in Canada, but leave before you start saying "about" funny. Live in Indiana, but leave before you start saying "warsh" and talking about Dan Quayle as a viable presidential candidate.

Accept certain inalienable truths: Taxes will increase. Politicians will continue to screw the American people. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you'll wonder why the heck you never bought your own island in the Caribbean and moved down there.

Respect your elders, especially if they have a lot of money.

Don't expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you'll have a wealthy spouse. But don't be surprised if one ran off with your accountant, taking the other with them in the middle of the night.

Don't mess too much with your hair. It's falling out and turning grey. Remember that thing I just said about getting old being an inalienable truth?

Be careful whose advice you buy, especially if the name "Psychic Friends" appears on your credit card bill. Psychic Friends is a form of a scam. Dispensing it is just a way of making stuff up as they go along, playing mysterious, yet soothing music in the background, and selling the whole package for much, much more than it's worth. Much more.

But trust me on the belt. And you might consider putting on some underwear too.



The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is now available. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out.

You can get both of them from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or for the Kindle or Nook.

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Holiday Etiquette for New Married Couples

The holidays are upon us like a zombie at a Mensa conference. And for some families, it's the first holiday together for the 20-something children and his or her new spouse.

Many people say the holidays are a relaxing time. But they are filthy, rotten liars. These people also give parenting advice even though they don't have children, and think "working hard or hardly working?" is funny.

Holidays are anything but relaxing, especially for the "outside member" of the newly married couple. Once you hit about year 10, your in-laws will begin to thaw a bit and welcome you into the family. But until then, you're in for a tension-filled-don't-say-the-wrong-thing holiday season.

As a veteran spouse now on his 19th Thanksgiving and Christmas, let me give you some etiquette and advice for young married couples, both husbands and wives.

1. If you're not married, don't kid yourself. At this point in your relationship, you're still expendable and replaceable. While that may seem harsh and uncaring, keep in mind this is an escape option for you as well. Especially if your spouse-to-be's family is more than a little on the wacky side. And not the good kind of wacky either, where Aunt Tilly lives with 12 cats and shouts at the mailbox. The bad kind of bats--- crazy that involves alcohol, fisticuffs, shouting and tears, and where the night's not over until someone gets their head shoved into the cranberry sauce.

2. Never discuss moving away. You've already stolen their baby, and while they may say they like you, there's still something hidden away in the deep recesses of those pasted-on smiles. Moving to a new city is a sad topic on what is supposed to be a happy-on-the-surface-bitter-underneath day. Save the news for an email.. After you've moved.

3. Never, ever compare your mom's cooking to your mother-in-law's. Don't talk about differences. Don't talk about memories. Don't talk about how your mom slices up canned cranberry sauce instead of making real cranberry sauce. Even if your own mother is a lousy cook, and you think it's funny to regale your new in-laws with how awful your mom's food is, don't. For one thing, it shows that you're disrespectful to your own mom, and moms will stick together over the strangest things. For another, your mother-in-law will wonder if you and your spouse say the same things about her when you're with your parents. Even though you do.

4. Go along with family traditions, especially if one of the traditions is parking it in front of the football game with your father-in-law. This is especially true for the women. Even if you don't like football, find out who your father-in-law is backing on game day. Then, spend 30 minutes reading about the teams, and pick up a couple pieces of trivia on the premier players (usually the quarterback). If you can talk football with him, he'll love you forver.

5. Help out in the kitchen, or at least offer to help. This is especially true for the women too. Yes, I know it sounds sexist, but here's how new marriages work: if you're the woman, your mother-in-law doesn't like you because you stole her son, but your father-in-law is glad his son found someone to put up with him. If you're the man, the opposite is true. So, offer to help in the kitchen as a way to make peace. Ask about her recipes and adviec. And do NOT ever suggest something new or different. See rule #3.

6. Avoid topics of politics, sex, and religion. Especially sex. The last thing you want to discuss with your spouse's parents is the state of your sex life. Or that you're "trying" for children. Because "we're trying" is just code for "we're having more sex than usual. Just thought you ought to know."

If the conversation starts turning that direction — mostly because your spouse's younger brother or sister an idiot/evil and brings it up at dinner — divert attention away from the topic by saying, "Gee, that's a bummer about your candidate not winning his election. Guess that was all part of God's plan, huh?"

This holiday season, don't travel into hostile territory unprepared. Study these tips a few days before your visit, and once again on the ride over. Remember, the life you save may be your own.


The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is now available. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out.

You can get both of them from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or for the Kindle or Nook.

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Friday, November 16, 2012

A One-Sided Conversation About Life

"I want the red car."

"Because my real car's red."

"Fine, Buddy, you can be the red car. I'll be the blue car."

"Seriously? What color is left?"

"I am not going to be the pink car."

"Give me the yellow one."

"Sweetie, spin the wheel. Highest score goes first."

"A 9 is going to be pretty hard to beat. All I need is a 10."

"Wait, did I say highest goes first? I meant lowest."

"Okay, fine. Highest goes."

"I'll go to college. College grads make more."

"But there are some careers you can only have if you have a college degree."

"Yes, just like real life."

"That's why they called it that, Buddy."

"Honey, are you going to college or straight to a career?"

"No, a gap year is not an option."

"You may not have a sports car."

"Not a game one either."

"There is no thimble in Life. That's Monopoly."

"What? I'm not yelling. I'm being—"

"Yes, I know it's only a game."

"Alright, everybody calm down. This is family game night, so everyone have fun, dammit!"

"Who's turn is it?"

"Already? Okay, lucky 7. 'Study for finals. Miss a turn.' Ha, that's funny. Doesn't sound like me in college at—"

"What? I really didn't study very — uh, that is, I mean, yes, I studied and worked hard every day, just like we want you kids to do, and I never stayed up late to watch TV or drank beer during the week, and I certainly never stayed up all night to cram before my tests."

"I need to choose my career card."

"A police officer?! Woo-hoo!"

"Because any time anyone rolls a 10, they have to pay me $5,000."

"That's a traffic fine, not a bribe."

"Because it's the rules and they don't make any bills smaller than $5,000."

"Look, the chief says we're not going to get new squad cars if we don't raise another $200,000 by the end of the month. So he's riding all the patrols extra hard to generate some more ticket revenue."

"I'm just trying to get into the spirit of the game."

"Buddy, don't make your car crash on the Life road."

"That's not how you get rid of family members."

"Because you shouldn't want to get rid of your family."

"You're 10. How do you even know about shotgun weddings?"

"Yeah, you're not watching that show anymore."

"Honey, you got an 8, you can keep going."

"I don't care what the board says. You don't really have to stop."

"Who says she has to stop and get married?"

"Skipping marriage is optional."

"Especially for the girls."

"Because you girls don't need to get married. You don't need a man to make you happy. You can find your own happiness on your own."

"But Mommy chose me. That's different."

"Fine, you can get married if you want to."

"I don't like that peg. He looks a little shady to me."

"No, make him sit in the back!"

"I am not being unreasonable."

"Fine, he can sit where he wants."

"Your turn."

"Cool, a 10! That'll be $5,000, please."

"I am not on the take!"

"Look, if it was a bribe, I'd demand $10,000. So, quit calling me a dirty cop."

"Oh yeah? How many real doctors actually get paid $30,000 to fix someone's leg after a skiing accident? That's worth $5K, tops."

"Maybe if you had paid better attention in college, you would have been something besides a salesperson."

"I don't care if you make $100,000, that's just the luck of the draw. You should have worked harder. Then maybe you could have been an accountant or even an entertainer."

"Well, if I'm a dirty cop, you're an unethical salesperson. How about that? Maybe I ought to check the back of your car and see exactly what you've been 'selling' all this time. Would you like that?"

"I don't need a warrant. You've got a smashed taillight, and you were driving erratically. I think you had a little too much to drink at your wedding."

"Oh yeah, well, let's just take a little trip downtown and see what we can figure out with some bright lights and a rubber hose. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200."

"Sorry, that was Monopoly. This is Life."



The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is now available. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out.

You can get both of them from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or for the Kindle or Nook.

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Friday, November 09, 2012

Political Roundup 2012

It's been a crazy two years, but the 2012 presidential campaign is now over, much to the relief of everyone in the country with the possible exception of political operatives and TV station owners in battleground states.

Everyone already knows what happened, despite Karl Rove's best attempts to derail Fox News calling the Ohio results, and the subsequent on-air dope slap by Megyn Kelly, there were a few things you may not have heard about on Tuesday night.

While we watched President Obama become the president again, he managed to do it at all without Florida. Despite their best efforts to be relevant this year, Florida instead came off like a beauty pageant mom reminding everyone how she had been a pageant queen herself.

First, it was the voting — the last votes were cast at 1:30 am, long after Mitt Romney had delivered his concession speech. People waiting in line already knew the result, and so had no reason to vote.

Not that it mattered. Miami-Dade vote counters went home sometime around midnight, saying they were tired and didn't want to count anymore.

That's okay, the rest of the country is waiting for your results to see who the next president is, but, you know, whatever. You do what you want. We'll wait. No, really, go ahead. Yeah, none of the rest of the country got up at 4 a.m. to — No! No! You know what? That's bush league! That's total BS! The rest of this country has been up for the last 16 hours getting their stuff done, and you guys can't be bothered to count because you're a wittle sweepy?

Rhode Island has been here since 4:30 this morning, setting up chairs and making sure there were plenty of paper towels. Virginia stayed and counted until 2:00 in the morning. And Indiana got all their work done so they were finished by 8:00. Did this day catch you by surprise or something?

Finally, 48 hours after it all began, the votes were all counted, Obama won Florida, and the Romney campaign had to make another concession statement to the press, even though it interrupted their cupcake farewell party.

In stoner news, voters in Colorado and Washington said "wow, yeah, man" to recreational marijuana use, and then asked if you had ever really looked at your thumb.

Colorado and Washington became the first states to break the recreational marijuana prohibition, making it legal for anyone over 21 to possess up to an ounce of pot. In Colorado, people will be able to grow up to six plants for personal use, while in Washington, users will have to buy their weed from state-licensed providers.

These new developments have given rise to new ways of thinking for each state. For example, for their new state song, Colorado has selected Cheech and Chong's "Dave's Not Here." Meanwhile, Washington has declared their official state snack to be Cool Ranch Doritos.

In sore loser news, entertainment and real estate buffoon Donald Trump called for a revolution after Obama's victory, convinced that an angry uprising — a revolution, he said — in our nation's capital was the solution to a democratic election that didn't go his way.

"He lost the popular vote by a lot and won the election. We should have a revolution in this country!" read one of Trump's tweets. Trump later deleted that tweet after Obama finally did win the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes.

And also forgetting that the same thing happened 12 years ago. And 124 years ago. And 136 years ago. And 188 years ago.

Also, his call for revolution was pretty drastic. If he had been a Democrat, you can be sure that Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity would have called him treasonous. But Trump figured deleting his tweets meant they never really happened, like a little kid hides his eyes to hide from his parents.

Of course, when you realize he thinks his hair style actually hides his baldness, that actually makes sense.

"Lets (sic) fight like hell and stop this great and disgusting injustice! The world is laughing at us," said another tweet.

No, they're only laughing at you, Donald. Of course, that's not a new state of affairs, since you've been a joke ever since you burst onto the public scene, like a pimple of pomposity.

This year will long be remembered as an important election year, showing that billionaires' money could not buy an election. That voter suppression and disenfranchisement could not keep voters from exercising their right. And that no matter how angry politics seems to make most people, there's still plenty of humor to be found in them too.

After all, the only problem with political jokes is that many of them get elected.




The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is now available. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out.

You can get both of them from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or for the Kindle or Nook.

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Friday, November 02, 2012

PETA Wants to Memorialize Dead California Fish

Combine California and PETA and what do you get? One of the most woolly-headed, half-baked ideas to ever come out of a Birkenstock-sponsored drum circle.

Dina Kourda, resident of Irvine, California and a PETA volunteer, is asking the city to install a sign to memorialize hundreds of fish that were killed in a traffic crash last month, as they were headed to the Irvine Ranch Market.

She wants the sign to read "In memory of hundreds of fish who suffered and died at this spot."

Instead of the spot where they were all going to be sold for people to eat.

The crash in question involved a truck carrying 1,600 pounds of live salt water bass and several tanks of oxygen used to keep the fish alive, and two other vehicles. Hopefully vehicles carrying jars of tartar sauce and crates of lemons. Ooh, and with a small crate of parsley as a nice garnish!

Kourda wrote a letter, probably with an organic blueberry ink pen and paper made of dryer lint, to Irvine's street maintenance chief asking him to please place the sign at the accident site.

"Although such signs are traditionally reserved for human fatalities, I hope you'll make an exception because of the enormous suffering involved in this case," said Kourda.

Right, because if there's something Irvine's street maintenance department has time to do it's to put up signs memorializing dead animals. They'll get to yours after they put up the sign on Portola Parkway for all the roadkill raccoons. Indiana is even sending out a crew to pitch in after they put up tiny crosses and flower wreaths at the site of every deer road kill in the state.

Kourda's letter said the sign would remind truck drivers that fish value their lives and feel pain.

I guess the sign will help them remember to not crash their trucks, but I'm still planning on eating the fish, so it doesn't really matter what the drivers know about the fish. Also, the ratio of truck drivers who transport fish to the drivers who transport everything else is pretty low, and makes me think this is going to be a sign with a small reach and low ROI.

But Kourda and PETA seem to be unencumbered by things like common sense. She continued in her letter:

"Research tells us that fish use tools, tell time, sing, and have impressive long-term memories and complex social structures, yet fish used for food are routinely crushed, impaled, cut open, and gutted, all while still conscious."

If these fish are so damn smart, why didn't they just drive themselves to the market? I mean, how smart can they really be if they have to hitch a ride to their own market. Or why didn't they just go all A-Team and escape from captivity in the first place?

Now that I think about it, it would be pretty cool to see a little B.A. Baracus fish beating up cats, while a cigar-puffing Hannibal fish fires a homemade machine gun he made with an oxygen tank and truck rivets.

Still, it's California, and I'm sure this is not the weirdest piece of mail the city has ever dealt with. It's probably not the weirdest mail they got that day. Even so, every letter writer has to be treated with dignity and respect, no matter how looney they appear to be.

Craig Reem, the public affairs director for the city of Irvine, told the Los Angeles Times he was not familiar with the city's procedure for dealing with a request like Kourda's.

I am. Throw it in the trash.

Wait, wait. I'm sorry. I was a little hasty there.

I meant, recycle it.

But Irvine made their decision, presumably after they stopped laughing and dried their eyes. Reem said, "I do think it's fair to say we have no plans to erect a memorial."

No matter. PETA spokeswoman Asheley Byrne has said they will ask Irvine again.

It will probably take a while though, because it takes a long time to gather that much dryer lint for another piece of paper.

This isn't the first time PETA has asked cities to set aside funds used for repairing their roads, caring for the poor, and providing fire and police services to their citizens. According to an Associated Press story, Byrne says they have tried to honor pigs killed in Virginia, and cows killed in crashes in Illinois, Kansas, and Manitoba.

The fact that they're a political laughing stock does not deter them, and they will continue to ask for memorial signs to be placed at animal accident sites.

I've got an idea for their next one: "All You Can Eat."



The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is now available. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out.

You can get both of them from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or for the Kindle or Nook.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Republican Rhapsody (With Apologies to Queen)



My friend, is not only a social media and marketing professional, but he's also a humor writer. This is a contribution he offered up to the Laughing Stalk blog.

What do the polls say?
How ‘bout the Tea Party?
Want to win in a landslide?
Just escape from reality
Open your mouth
Insert your foot and speak

I'm just a fetus, I am not in vitro
Because I'm easy come, embryo
In with Wade, out with Roe
Any way the wind blows, ‘cause science doesn't really matter to you
To you

Mama, don’t kill your son
You’ve got a gun against your head
That rapist just might shoot you dead
Mama, my life has not begun
So please don’t go and throw it all away
Mama, ooo
I hate to tell you this
But if I come out in nine months or so
It’s ‘cause of God, ‘cause of God, because science doesn’t matter

Too late, you’re now preggo
Send an epidural down your spine
Feet are swelling all the time
Goodbye everybody - I've got to go
Gotta leave this uterus and kiss POTUS
Mama, ooo - (any way the wind blows)
I didn't want to die
Planned Parenthood wishes I'd never been born at all

I see a presumptive senator named Don-nel-ly
No to Joe, No to Joe, we will not let it be so
Rhetortic and bullshit – I can’t fucking stand it
Bobby Morris! Bobby Morris!
Bobby Morris! Bobby Morris!
Bobby Morris! Says no to Do-Si-Dos!

I was just a fetus, please don’t blame this on me
He's was just a fetus from a liberal family
Spare him the blame for this monstrosity
I’m a freaking embryo - will you just let it go?
It’s Mourdock! He will not let it go - let it go
It’s Mourdock! He will not let it go - let it go
Will not let it go - let it go (never)
Never let it go - let it go
Never let it go - ooo
No, no, no, no, no, no, no -
Oh Richard Lugar, Richard Lugar, Richard Lugar where’d ya go?
The primary has turned this into a mockery
Ai-eeee!
Ai-eeee!

So you think you can say dumb shit and still win?
So you really believe in Original Sin?
Oh Richard - can't do this to me Richard
Just gotta get out - just gotta get right outta this state

Ooh yeah, ooh yeah
Science doesn’t matter
To the G.O.P.
Science doesn’t matter
But silence would be better
To me



The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is now available. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out.

You can get both of them from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or for the Kindle or Nook.

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Friday, October 26, 2012

Karl the Curmudgeon Almost Wins the Oxford Comma

"Kid! Kid!" My friend, Karl the Curmudgeon, burst into Capoci's, waving a newspaper in the air. Capoci's is an Andorran bar, and we were going to watch the Roller Hockey World Cup's semi-finals. Andorra was facing off against Catalonia, and this promised to be an exciting match.

Don't give yourself an aneurysm, I said. What's up? Karl slapped a copy of The (London) Telegraph on the bar.

"Look!" he declared, looking like he had just found the final map to Blackbeard's buried treasure.

I picked up the paper and began to read. 'Owen Paterson has produced a 10-point guide for his civil servants on the pitfalls of common punctuation errors, including the Oxford comma.'

Son of a—!

"HA!" shouted Karl. "See, I told you the Oxford comma was a load of crap." He gestured at Nicolau, the bartender. "Two Alpha Torradas, Nicky."

Nicolau placed the two Andorran brews in front of us. I took a few big swigs, while I considered my next move.

I had been ambushed, placed in a very precarious position. Karl and I had tangled over my love of the Oxford comma last year, when I soundly thrashed him on his misguided abstinence of the punctuation point. Now Karl was citing the publication of an article in a far-off newspaper about a high-level bureaucrat's hatred of my useful, helpful, and wonderful comma (the one just there after "helpful") as some sort of. . . evidence that I was wrong.

Inconceivable!

I took another long, slow drink and emptied the mug. I plonked it down on the bar.

Look, I said, the very fact this is even an article in The Telegraph should tell you how misguided Paterson is. No one would bat an eye if he had demanded that people stop printing and filing emails. But he's so fundamentally wrong that one of the biggest newspapers in all of England thought it was worth mentioning

And not, I added, the one with topless women in it. So you know it must be serious.

"But look," Karl hissed, stabbing the article with a gnarled finger. "He created a 10-point guide he's calling 'Punctuation Rules.' A guide!"

Yeah, but he's a laughingstock to the rest of the government. Look, some even called him the "Minister for Semicolons."

"So? Even great ideas often receive violent opposition from mediocre minds."

True. And sometimes those minds write punctuation guides.

"Now you're just being petty."

Look, it says right here, 'Mary Creagh, the shadow environment secretary' — what's that, like the secretary of Mordor?

"I don't know, I don't understand British politics."

I continued: 'Mary Creagh accused Mr. Paterson of wasting time with his guide. She said, "Instead of obsessing over every dot and comma, Owen Paterson should be getting a grip on his department."'

"Yeah, but she's supposed to say that," said Karl. "She's the opposition party, and they're supposed to nitpick and whine about everything the party in power does."

I flagged down Nicolau, and he set two more Alpha Torradas down. I took a drink, and checked the score. Andorra 7, Catalonia 6. It was an exciting match.

We can barely trust bureaucrats to do the jobs they've been charged with, I said. Especially this guy. He's the minister of the Environment department, and yet he's a climate change skeptic and is opposed to wind farms.

"So? Now you're going way off topic."

No, I'm making a point. This guy's actual job is to help protect the environment, but he's skeptical that it needs protecting, and he's opposed to the technology that will help protect it. Yet this is someone whose grammar rules you choose to follow? You're a writer, for God's sake. Why are you taking punctuation advice from a bureaucrat?

"Because he knows what he's talking about."

Oh yeah, he's a real model of literary excellence. Most government types are. So it must be that most writers would be good at government. Maybe British novelist Nick Hornby can keep England safe from another Mad Cow disease outbreak.

"Kid, I don't think—"

Or maybe Eddie Izzard, the transvestite comedian, can bring sustainable economic growth to rural England.

"I can tell when you're losing an argument, because you start cracking jokes and oversimplifying the other side's argument."

No, I'm just saying of all the people to give bureaucrats a lesson on punctuation and grammar, it shouldn't be another bureaucrat. They couldn't write a Stop sign without a committee and a mission statement.

Karl smirked. "I think I won this one."

My mind raced. I was desperate. I couldn't lose, not like this. Then I spotted my life saver in the article, and clutched at it like a drowning man going under for the third time.

He also hates dashes — especially the long em-dashes — and thinks everyone should just use periods.

"Why, that addle-minded, know-nothing son of a—!"

Exactly.


The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is now available. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out.

You can get both of them from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or for the Kindle or Nook.

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

An Homage to Suzanne Glass, Founder of Indie-Music.com

I said good-bye today to one of my writing influences, a woman who is partly responsible for my writing abilities, knowledge, and style.

Suzanne Glass, founder of Indie-Music.com, passed away last week after a short bout with cancer. Suzanne started the site back in 1996 as a place for independent musicians to learn about marketing, the music business, professionalism, and to have their albums reviewed.


It's this last category where I got to work with Suzanne, reviewing any CDs I could, and putting them up on her website.

I met Suzanne through our mutual friend, Joel, who I had known since college. And my first email to her, asking her if I could possibly write for the site was met with, "any friend of Joel's is a friend of ours!" and I was off and running.

I wrote over 150 CD and technology reviews for the site, and a few marketing articles. Suzanne and I toyed with the idea of representing some bands, even going so far as to meet with a few of them, before deciding we were both too busy and couldn't put the time into it. We also did some PR work for a couple artists, including an Indian sitar star, whose album I still have.

I drove down to Columbus, Indiana today for the visitation, and to share memories with her best friend and partner, Paul, and was reflecting on how much I actually learned from Suzanne and Paul, and everything they had actually done for me.

  • I can't listen to commercial radio anymore, thanks to Suzanne. I know what goes into the music business, know how record labels killed many good bands, and know first hand how awesome many of these forever-unsigned bands are. Now, I listen to community and public radio stations that play the little-known and independent artists. I developed that habit after hearing dozens and dozens of outstanding artists that are still better than a lot of the crap on the radio.
  • I know how to review music and the arts, after three or four years of writing for Suzanne. Being a music reviewer is more than just listening to a CD and saying, "yeah, I liked it," or more commonly, "I'm going to say I didn't like it so I can appear smarter than the band." Being a music reviewer means understanding the artist's vision for their album, and being able to unearth it. She taught me how to find their vision and that one gem of a song or a hook that's worth sharing with a reader.
  • I learned how to write well, quickly. Many times I would have 10 - 12 reviews to do in a single month, and had to churn out better-than-average articles for her and Paul. If I wanted to be published, I had to do well. So I learned how to write good first drafts, and how to edit. But it was Suzanne's confidence in me to do it right, rather than her constantly editing me, that made me try harder.
  • I learned confidence to do things I wasn't sure of. When we tried our hand at PR, I was the sales guy and the money-asker, making sure we got paid. "But I hate asking for money," I protested. "I hate it so much that I don't do it here at work." Suzanne said I was way better than she or Paul were, so I was the best choice. So I learned to ask for payment from clients.
  • I learned how artists think. Before I started working with Suzanne, before I met any musicians, I thought musicians were flaky whackjobs who did music because they couldn't function in real life. Now, after having met dozens of musicians, and worked with many of them directly, I know they're actually flaky whackjobs who do music because it's their passion. They can't not do music. If they stopped, they would die. Suzanne told me that and showed me that more than once. It's helped me understand why I love writing.
  • My wife, Toni, is pursuing her own jazz career now, and any marketing advice I give her is a direct result of everything I learned either reading or writing for Indie-Music.com.


Most importantly, I learned to find the workaround. Back in the 1990s, just as the Internet was taking hold of our collective consciousness, the record labels still ran the show. If you wanted to be on the radio, you had to be on a major record label. If you wanted to be on a major record label, you had to be pretty and perky. It helped if you could sing. But the best musicians weren't ever going to make it on the radio, because no one could figure out who they were.

Then we got the Internet.

And we started helping musicians find out how they could reach their crowds, tell them how to find their music, and make sure they were heard without a major record label packaging them up, slapping a blond wig on them, and making them sing "baby, baby, baby."

We started showing musicians — and they started showing each other — how you didn't need the radio, or even a record label to make it big. Artists like Rich Hardesty were making a great living going out, making music people liked, and selling it to them without his albums appearing in a single music store.

Websites like Indie-Music.com started showing people how the little guy could find the workaround. The little guy no longer needed the big guys to make their dreams come true. The little guy could ignore the big guy, and reach everyone just fine without him.

The little guy had a workaround. And that workaround was there if you would just look for it.

In the music business, the workaround was Indie-Music.com. And I'm proud to say I got to spend four of the best years of my life, listening to great music, meeting great musicians, and learning some of the most valuable lessons of my writing and marketing life, all from Suzanne Glass.




Friday, October 19, 2012

I've Got This Bridge I'd Like To Sell You

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

I realized I had finally made my mark in the world when I received my very own Nigerian scam letter, addressed to me at my office eight years ago. When Nigerian scam artists put your name on a letter, rather than addressing it with an impersonal "Dear Friend," you've obviously done something important.

At least that's what I tell myself.

But there it was, in a pile of mail, directly from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.

Keep in mind, this was in 1995, before crooks realized the email was a much cheaper and easier way to swindle people. This was back in the day of fax machines and the post office.

"Grandpa, tell us a story about how crooks used to swindle people with pen and paper."

Nowadays, the crooks use email to blanket hundreds of thousands of people. But back in 1995, they used word processors and stamps to regale me with their tales of woe, of how they had $75 million in the bank from some huge petroleum deal, but thanks to those greedy Nigerian politicians, they couldn't move a single dime out of the country.

But if I, Erik Deckers, would help them, I could have HALF the money! And it was so simple.

All I had to do was mail them my company's bank account number and 10 blank pieces of company letterhead with my signature on it. They would send letters to my bank, dumping all the money into my account. Then I was supposed to send half of it to another bank in another country.

This was it! I was going to be rich! I was going to be wealthy!

I was going to be amazingly stupid if I sent them anything.

There was no big oil deal, there was no $75 million, and there certainly was no way anyone was going to give me $37.5 million for 10 pieces of paper.

It was an obvious scam. I realized it the first time I ever saw the letter. No one is stupid enough to fall for this, I declared.

Apparently, I'm wrong.

The Nigerian scam, known simply as "419," after the section of the Nigerian Criminal Code on fraud, is the third largest industry in Nigeria. Although there are hundreds of variations, and the crooks are more sophisticated then they were seven years ago, victims are usually asked up pay an up-front fee, transfer tax, performance bond, etc.

Then there are complications which need additional payments. Eventually the victim will run out of money, but will have no legal recourse in getting their money back. And the losses run in the hundreds of millions worldwide.

It's such a big problem that the US Secret Service website (ICouldTellYouTheAddressButI'dHaveToKillYou.gov) covers this problem extensively, because they hear about it all the time. In 2002, Americans sent 38,000 letters and 346,000 emails to the Secret Service, alerting them to the different schemes they received.

One Secret Service spokesman said to reporters "How'd they find out where we were? I thought we were the SECRET service."

Although I feel sorry for some of the people who fall for the scam and lose thousands of dollars, there's one guy who probably deserved what happened to him.

According to a recent story in the Winona (Minnesota) Post, 58-year-old Carl Fratzke faces up to 70 years in prison and/or a $140,000 fine if he's convicted on seven counts of "theft by swindle."

That's one count for each of the seven people who say Fratzke cheated them out of $207,000 in 2000 by promising them to buy $500,000 worth of gloves and then selling them for $1.2 million to Wal-Mart. The seven would-be investors realized there was a problem when Fratzke didn't show up with their money 30 days later, like he had promised.

So in May 2001, they scheduled a meeting with Fratzke to find out what happened to their investment, but he failed to show up (no big surprise there). Instead he left them a note saying that he had invested their money, plus $550,000 OF HIS OWN MONEY in a Nigerian scam and lost it all.

One has to chuckle at the irony. Actually one has to point their finger at Fratzke and laugh outright at the irony.

Oh sure, I feel bad for the seven people who lost anywhere from $12,000 to $25,000 apiece, because they'll never get their money back. But my faith in a fair and balanced universe is restored when crooks like Fratzke lose gobs of money to people just like himself, before finally being tossed in the slammer for the rest of his natural life.

As far as the Nigerian crooks who steal millions and millions of dollars from around the world go, I have a little proposal I'd like to make to them.

I'd like to sell you some stocks from an up-and-coming energy company called Enron.


The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is now available. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out.

You can get both of them from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or for the Kindle or Nook.

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Friday, October 12, 2012

Need a Hug? Wear the Like-A-Hug Vest

I'm a hugger.

I like hugging people when I greet them, assuming I know them fairly well. People I know less well get a firm, but warm handshake. I appreciate physical contact among friends and family. The pat on the back. The reassuring squeeze on the shoulder. The high five.

And the hug.

I believe that nothing can replace the warmth of physical contact, and even in the growing world of social media — online networking, remote relationships, and video phone calls — physical touch is very important. It's what makes us feel loved and special.

So I was more than a little disturbed by the story in The (London) Guardian about the new Like-A-Hug vest invented by a group of MIT students who apparently never got enough hugs when they were kids.

Whenever you get a "Like" from someone on Facebook, the Like-A-Hug vest will inflate like a life jacket and "hug" you. When a friend likes a status update you made, a comment, a photo, or a video, you'll "feel the warmth, encouragement, support or love that we feel when we receive hugs," team member Melissa Kit Chow told the Guardian.

The team developed the Like-A-Hug as part of an exercise in tactile shape display, technology that lets you feel a touch normally given in a virtual or online environment. In other words, if someone "touched" you online, you'd feel it in the real world.

"We came up with the concept over a casual conversation about long-distance relationships and the limitations of video chat interfaces like Skype," said Chow. "The concept of telepresence arose, and we toyed with the idea of receiving hugs via wireless technology."

The team is still working on what the vest will do for other Facebook interactions, like when your status updates and photos are "shared." What happens if someone "follows" your status updates? Do you get a tingling up your spine? And what happens if you get "poked?"

If you're like me, you just started giggling about "poking."

And with Facebook's proposed new "want" button, just what exactly would that entail?

Many social media haters have complained that social networking is taking the place of good old-fashioned human interaction, and secludes us from each other. While social media has actually had the opposite effect — by deepening relationships much faster and creating new ones that never would have existed — I have to admit the Like-A-Vest is a big weapon in the haters' arsenal. A big, warm fuzzy weapon that cradles you in its warm embrace.

It's not lost on me that the people who developed the hugging vest are probably among the same group of people — computer nerds — who are renowned for avoiding real-world human interaction, and instead flock to their computers for emotional support and human companionship, and end up secretly, desperately craving physical human contact.

So instead of spending time in a coffee shop, bar, networking group, or social event trying to meet real people they can get to know in real life, they instead spent all their time in a lab creating a vest that simulates the warm huggy feeling everyone else gets because they spent their time meeting people in coffee shops, bars, networking groups, and social events.

Irony, thy name is Like-A-Vest.

But while I think the whole idea of getting fake hugs from a puffy vest is silly, especially when I get real hugs from real people, I do like the idea of clothing where the wearers can get tactice feedback remotely.

For example, football players can receive a congratulatory pat on the butt from a coach with their Pat-A-Butt pants, without the coach ever having to actually touch a player's sweaty butt. Dogs could wear little vests called Pet-A-Dog, which allergic people could use to still own dogs. And mama's boys could wear it on their honeymoon so their moms can continue to maintain a stranglehold on their man-child, protecting him from that "evil harpy."

While I would never begrudge anyone a hug — assuming they weren't, you know, icky or anything — or even the technology to simulate hugs, I would like to encourage anyone who is considering the Like-A-Vest to go outside. Talk to some real people. Make some real life friends who will give you real life hugs.

Because the ones called @HawtPartyGurl93 don't seem like the kind of people you want to hug in real life.




The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is now available. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out.

You can get both of them from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or for the Kindle or Nook.

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Friday, October 05, 2012

Confessions of a Frightened 12-Year-Old

I spent most of my pre-teen childhood afraid of almost everything. Afraid of the Cold War. Afraid of rock musicians and their drug-addled fans. Afraid of being eaten by sharks, even in swimming pools. Afraid of being hit by cars (which I was once). Afraid of the song "Hotel California," the beast they couldn't kill, and the ghost of the guy's wife who hadn't been around since 1969.

One thing that scared me were the drug scare films they showed us in 6th grade to keep us from using drugs. These had been made in the early 1970s to show kids what would happen if they took drugs.

You would die.

Drugs, said the films, would make you freak out and have horrible screaming fits about psychedelic monsters trying to steal your face. Or they would make you think you could fly, and you'd climb on top of a building to try it, only to realize halfway down that things weren't going according to plan.

These films filled me with a sense of dread that stayed with me for weeks after watching them, and I spent a lot my 6th grade year worrying that I was going to die from accidentally injecting myself with heroin, and becoming another statistic for drug film makers to use in their next round of scare films.

Or being eaten by sharks.

You can imagine my terror when I was 12 years old, and I found out my best friend, Doug, who was 13, had started smoking pot. I was convinced he would be dead soon.

After all, that's what the drug films said would happen. Take drugs, think you can fly, and jump off a building.

This was not really a problem in Muncie, Indiana, because the tallest building in my part of town was my elementary school. There was the Muncie Mall, which is 30 feet high, but it's nearly impossible to climb.

However, as the drug films taught us, if kids even smoked pot, they would ride their bike the five miles to the mall, find a way to climb on the roof, and jump, much to the horror of their classmates who had all gathered to watch what would happen.

And yet, there was my friend, Doug, smoking pot with his druggie friends, completely oblivious to what awaited him. We called anyone who smoked pot "druggies," convinced they were dirty hippies who wanted to get kids to try drugs so they could be turned into Communist sympathizers and undermine the American way of life.

I'm proud to say I refused all marijuana that was presented to me, turning down any offers of bongs, joints, pipes, or other paraphernalia. (I didn't try pot until much later, when I was in college. Unless my parents are reading this. Then I never tried it in college either.)

For one thing, it smelled awful, like someone had stuffed a dead skunk into a tire, and set the entire thing on fire.

Not that his parents would notice the smell. His mom drank and smoked a lot, and never even smelled when the family dog had crapped on the floor. And I was convinced his dad was crazy and out of touch with reality, based that on the fact that the only time he ever smelled anything we did was when we tried to set a chemistry experiment on fire in his basement.

All I knew was that I had to be hyper-vigilant, ready to wrestle my friend to the ground if he showed any signs of wanting to fly.

His disreputable, druggie friends could go jump in front of a bus for all I cared. I just didn't want my best friend's last words to be, "No, really! I can do it!" before he leapt off his ranch house into the muddy back yard, yet another victim of the pot that had cut short or ruined so many young lives, like the drug films said would happen if I ever smoked it.

After a couple of years of Doug and his pot-smoking friends not trying to kill themselves, I began to wonder if the drug films had exaggerated just a little bit. I still wasn't trying it, but I began to relax and decided to let down my guard against anyone trying to fly.

I also decided that many of my other fears were probably unfounded as well, and that the things that had frightened me before were nothing but the product of a kid's overactive imagination.

And then Friday the 13th came out.



The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is now available. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out.

You can get both of them from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or for the Kindle or Nook.

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Friday, September 28, 2012

How Not to Talk to Your Kids About Sex


Parenting experts (i.e. parents. Also, your younger sibling who has never had children) will tell you that, when it comes to explaining sex to your kids, there are two basic rules. First, ask clarifying questions, so you can understand what it is your child already knows, and what they're really asking. Second, always answer the question your kid asks.

For example, if your 6-year-old asks you where babies come from, this is not the time to explain the whole birds and bees thing to them. Instead, ask "do you mean, from the hospital?" or "where do you think they come from?" And they'll just want to know how they came home, so your answer "from the mommy's tummy" will be more than sufficient

Of course, it's going to be tougher when they come back a year or two later and ask, "how do they get inside the mommy's tummy?"

That's still not the time to explain the whole birds and bees thing to them.

Oh, I know, some forward-thinking parents want their children to know everything about sex, and to not feel ashamed, and yada yada yada. But for those of us from Indiana, we still spell out S-E-X, and it's still something you do in the dark, so we don't like talking about it.

My wife and I decided a long time ago that when it came time to talk to our kids about sex, she was going to talk to any girls we had, and I was going to talk to any boys. At least that way, we would each have a common point of view that we could share with our children.

Besides, nothing freaks out a young boy worse than getting the sex talk from his mom. This is an issue for boys everywhere, which I know from personal experience.

To be fair, my "sex talk" was nothing more than my mom handing me a copy of Where Did I Come From? and saying "here," which, as I think back on it, was uncomfortable for both of us. That single syllable was more than either of us wanted to ever talk about.

Earlier this year, I violated rule #2 of only answering the question that was asked.

My youngest daughter, who is 11 and a huge fan of Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series on Cartoon Network, asked me a very uncomfortable question as the five of us were eating dinner several months ago.

"Daddy, what's a gut sack?"

Since we home school our kids, I had no idea where she would have picked up this term. Probably church, I thought. My wife cracked up at the look on my face as it dawned on me what she was asking.

"I think you mean a different word, sweetie," I said, explaining the word she was looking for rhymed with "gut sack," but was something different.

"Okay!" I said in my best this-is-serious voice. "Mommy and I agreed that she would answer girl questions, and I would answer boy questions, but that's not an option. So I'll just explain this once to everyone, you'll all know what it means, and we'll never speak of it again."

My wife continued to laugh at my discomfort and tomato-red face.

I then launched into an explanation of how boys are built, and some of the different labels that are used when referring to our anatomy. I explained several terms they were likely to hear over the next few years, what they meant, and finally concluded with "so when you said 'gut sack,' what you meant to say was (that thing that rhymes with 'gut sack')."

My daughter stared at me, thinking for a moment, and said, "Oh, okay. Because General Grievous on Clone Wars is a cyborg, and all that's left of him are his internal organs, which are stored behind a metal shield in a gut sack."

I don't know who was going to die first, my wife from laughing so hard, or me from the aneurysm I was about to have.

I had smashed rules #1 and 2: Always ask clarifying questions and always answer the question you're asked.

Had I just said, "what do you mean?" or "where did you hear that?" she would have said something about General Grievous and internal organs, and that would have been that.

Instead, my children all know what the thing that rhymes with "gut sack" is, which as I reflect on it, is not a terrible thing to know. At the same time, I just didn't want to be the one to tell them.

Maybe we should just send them to public school so they can learn about sex the same way everyone else did: from the other kids at recess.


The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is now available. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out.

You can get both of them from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or for the Kindle or Nook.

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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Apple, pumpkin pie bakers sought; contest to include media celebrity judge

I'm going to be a judge in a pie contest at Switzerland County's Sleepy Hollow event. Normally, I wouldn't publish articles about me, but I liked this one. And it's from my friend, Kendal, and she asked her media friends to promote it through their outlets, so. . . .

Switzerland County Tourism invites budding bakers to enter apple and pumpkin pies into their annual fall pie contest. The competition coincides with the Sat., Oct. 6, 2012 Sleepy Hollow event in downtown Vevay, IN. Cooked pies should be hand-delivered to the Switzerland County Visitors Center, located at 128 West Main Street in Vevay, no later than 11:00am. Pies will be judged by a panel of judges beginning at noon.

Erik Deckers, an author, Laughing Stalk humor columnist, and blogger for the Indiana state tourism office, will be a media celebrity pie judge. Deckers quipped in a recent Indiana Insider post—the official blog of the Indiana Office of Tourism Development—that he wasn’t invited to judge the Sleepy Hollow apple and pumpkin pie contest during Vevay’s upcoming event. The Switzerland County Tourism staff quickly realized their “oversight” and invited Deckers—who hails from Indianapolis—to be a judge for this year’s contest.

Pies will be judged on appearance, taste, and texture of the crust, with bakers of the winning pies receiving awards. With participants’ approval, all pies will be cut and served to the public after judging by a panel of connoisseurs including notable locals.

Sleepy Hollow will also feature live entertainment by Toni Deckers, arts and crafts around the courthouse square, an antique tractor show, roaming Headless Horseman, and a pet parade. The event will take place from 9am-4pm, with Toni Deckers performing from noon until 3:00pm.

For more information on the Sleepy Hollow event, local lodging and county businesses, contact the Switzerland County Visitors Center at 812-427-3237, log on to switzcotourism.com or join their Facebook fan page at Switzerland County Tourism-Vevay, IN.



The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is now available. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out.

You can get both of them from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or for the Kindle or Nook.

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Friday, September 21, 2012

A One-Sided Conversation With My Son About Music

"Hey Buddy, can you turn down your amp?"

"I SAID, CAN YOU TURN DOWN—oh. Uh, your amp."

"I know you're practicing."

"But you're practicing, not the opening act at Bankers Life Fieldhouse."

"Fine, Klipsch Music Center. But you don't need to crank up your amp so loud for practice."

"Of course I'd come see you play."

"Yes, even at Klipsch."

"Yes, in the summer too."

"Of course I like outdoor venues. Who told you I didn't?"

"Oh, she did, did she? Well, Mommy doesn't like the summer either."

"There's nothing wrong with sitting inside. It's nice and cool."

"That was not heat stroke! I just got a little overheated is all."

"That's because you kids need to be outside to build up a tolerance to the heat. It makes you appreciate the air conditioning when you're older."

"What were you playing, AC/DC?"

"Of course I know who AC/DC is. Who do you think told you about them?"

"No he did not. I played AC/DC for you way before your guitar teacher ever did."

"So let me hear you play it."

"Come on, play."

"Now is not the time to be embarrassed."

"Buddy, you just had your amped cranked up to 11 and you were rocking "'T.N.T.'"

"Yes, I heard the "Oi. Oi. Oi." too."

"No, it doesn't really go up to 11."

"That's just an expression."

"From a movie."

"'This is Spinal Tap.' It's a mockumentary about a rock band that goes from being famous to being a failure."

"A fake documentary."

"A movie that tells a story about something real."

"Like the news."

"No, you don't have to watch the news. I'm just saying it's just like the news."

"No, you can't."

"Because it's not suitable for 9-year-olds."

"Because they have things like where their drummers keep dying from spontaneous combustion or a freak gardening accident."

"Where someone bursts into flames for no reason at all."

"That's not sad. It's funny."

"Because it's so rare it almost never happens. And yet it keeps happening to their drummers."

"And what about the freak gardening accident? Who ever heard of that?"

"Or the time — I loved this — when David St. Hubbins and Nigel Tufnel had cold sores and — oh, um, never mind. You just can't watch it until you're older."

"Because when you're nine, you don't need to know about stuff like that."

"So are you going to play this song for me or not?"

"That's not an option."

"I was asking to be polite. Play the song."

"Oi! Oi! O—"

"Sorry. I won't do that again."

"No, seriously, Buddy. Play it again. I won't do that."

"Good job! That was really good. Maybe your sister would play with you on her drum set."

"Because I've heard her play it too."

"Yeah, she does the Oi thing too."

"But you have to learn to play in front of people. How many rock stars do you know who are afraid to play in front of people?"

"Besides she's just as afraid of playing in front of you as you are playing in front of her."

"Same thing I told Mommy about mice."

"Come on. It'll be the first Deckers family jam session."

"You bring your guitar and I'll get your amp."

"No, not just like a roadie. I'm not the roadie."

"The manager."

"Mommy will not be your manager."

"No, I won't be the driver either."

"Sweetie, I want you and your brother to play "T.N.T." together."

"Yes, you have to play in front of him. That's what musicians do. They play in front of each other, and other people."

"Don't worry, he's just afraid of playing in front of you—"

"Yes, like the mouse. If you knew it, why did you make me repeat it?"

"Just play together. If you want, I can stick around and watch to see how it's going."

"But I like doing the Oi, Oi, Oi."

"Then I'll be downstairs."

"No, I'm not bringing you a glass of water."

"Manager! I'm not the roadie, I'm the manager!"

"Fine. Do you want ice?"


The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is now available. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out.

You can get both of them from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or for the Kindle or Nook.

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Friday, September 14, 2012

Indiana Fever Fall to Minnesota Lynx, 66 - 64

It's one of our last two home games, as the Indiana Fever face off against the Minnesota Lynx in the first of two games in a row.

The game got off to another slow start, and we didn't see a point scored until Briann January scored after 2:07, but the Lynx had no such troubles. With 6:00 to go in the first quarter, it was Minnesota Lynx 10, January 2. By the time we reached 5:00, she had scored all 6.

At one point, the Fever had 11 points — January with 9, and Tammy Sutton-Brown (or as everyone calls her TammySuttonBrown) had the other 2.

Becky Hardy, the 3-point stair runner, was missing again today. Was that a factor?

The Fever finally got a spark lit under them, and they began to mount a comeback, thanks to two fast breaks by Katie Douglas, and it was 25 - 20, Lynx, after the first quarter. They also played some hard defense, holding the Lynx to four shot clock violations this game.

All told, the Fever did not look like they were playing at their best tonight. January had a chance to shine, which is usually hard to do when Douglas and Tamika Catchings are playing hard. But January really shone through tonight. But there was a lot of hesitation on everyone's part. By the end of the first half, January had 11 points, and Catchings had 10.

Everyone played tentatively tonight. Minnesota isn't that good, and the Fever should have been walking all over them. They were playing like they know they're in the playoffs. I've seen then play way harder than this, so I don't know what's up tonight.

Were the replacement refs officiating this game too? They were just as tentative. They couldn't agree whether the Lynx had a shot clock violation, so they had a jump ball. What's next, do over with no backsies?

(Toni and the kids got on the screen for Jump On It jump cam. So did my friend Michael Mendes.)

Fever began making a comeback in the 2nd minute of the 4th quarter, and fans came alive. The Jump Cam really helped, and got people amped up.

The Fever lost 66-64. Erlana Larkin flubbed a pass from Douglas at the last second, but we can't blame her for "losing" the game. If just one Fever player had hit one 3 more pointer, it wouldn't have mattered. It wasn't their best game, but they did come alive in the last quarter.

Now, the Fever just have to figure out how to beat the Lynx in their next game in Minnesota.




The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is now available. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out.

You can get both of them from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or for the Kindle or Nook.

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