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

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.


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—!"


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.


Like this post? Leave a comment, Digg it, or Stumble it.

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.


Like this post? Leave a comment, Digg it, or Stumble it.