Friday, February 22, 2013

Men Have Discuss-Your-Feeling Friends

Several weeks ago, fellow humor columnist Jenny Isenman wrote about women's "move-a-body-friends," those friends who would help you move a body with no questions asked — or at least only a few, with "why?" not being among them.

It's often been said, especially on Facebook, that while a friend will bail you out of jail, a true friend will be sitting next to you, saying "Man, didn't we have fun?" But the move-a-body-friend (MABF) will hide you out at her place until the heat is off.

But Isenman says you only get one or two MABFs in your lifetime. These are the friends who will tell you "'That skirt/dress/jumpsuit makes your butt look fat,'" when that skirt/dress/jumpsuit actually makes your butt look fat" or "pretend I need you to fix my bra strap to save you from a tedious conversation with a boring mom at the playground or that annoying guy at Starbucks."

Isenman has come up with a list of 20 expectations she has for her MABF, so it's a high standard to live up to.

Men have a similar type of friend, but there's only one super strict requirement that we have of this person, which makes this type of friend extremely rare. While most men will help their friends move a body, no questions asked — except maybe, "can I have his cordless drill?" — there are very few friends who fit into this higher, much stricter category:

The Discuss Your Feelings Friend.

For many men, discussing their feelings with another man is one of the most intimate, vulnerable parts of a relationship we have with anyone, let alone another dude.

Discuss Your Feelings Friends will often share things they men won't mention to their other friends, let alone their wives or girlfriends. We'll discuss our. . . you know. . . "personal" health; when we're feeling sad and it doesn't involve our favorite sports team losing; and, the strong emotional feelings (love or otherwise) we have for our spouse or significant other.

But unlike Isenman's 20 things the MABF will do, there are just three things the Discuss Your Feelings Friends (DYFF) have to do for each other.

Loan tools: Yes, neighbors borrow tools from each other, but that's different. Neighbors ask to borrow tools, and they're always loaned with a sense of reluctance and dread, because the owner assumes the tool will come back broken three years later.

But the DYFF is happy to lend tools because he knows his friend will take extra good care of them. Besides the friend has a new miter saw he's been wanting to try out. Plus, every Guy likes to play I Have The Best Tools, and the best way to win is to swipe your neighbor's tools and tell everyone else they're his.

Lifting: My wife told me most women will not offer to help each other lift heavy objects. They'll usually stand and marvel, "wow, you can lift that?" but won't move a muscle to help, even when the answer is a barely grunted "no-o-o!"

On the other hand, men usually offer to help each other carry heavy objects. And unlike asking for directions, most men will even ask for help when they need it. However they don't want to appear too weak, so they usually won't ask until they've nearly pooped themselves trying to lift twice their body weight, which they haven't done since 1997.

The DYFF already knows what his friend's limit is, and grabs the other end of the heavy object without being asked, or before the first fart squeaks out from the effort. While the lifter may protest to any other Guy so he won't appear weak, when it's his DYFF, he'll gladly accept the help, and will even slack off a bit and hope the friend won't notice.

Laugh at Your Misfortune: Remember, the Discuss Your Feelings Friend is, first and foremost, a Guy. And while he wants the absolute best for you, and feels sad when things go wrong, you can guarantee he'll laugh at your misfortunes when he can get away with it. That's how Guys cope. We laugh at each other's misery.

Lose your job? Your DYFF is going to crack jokes about you having extra free time to help him clean out his garage. Are gray hairs sprouting in your beard or on your head? He's going to repeat the grandpa jokes you told him when he started going gray. Your girlfriend dump you? He's been storing up jokes about her ever since she invited her annoying friends to Sunday afternoon football.

Discuss Your Feeling Friends may have 70% fewer requirements than Jenny Isenman's move-a-body-friends, but that's because we don't put as many conditions on a friendship as women seem to. We never worry about whether something makes us look fat (we just don't care) or whether we're talking to someone annoying (we just make up an excuse and leave). We're happy to accept our friendships unconditionally and without expectation, and we take what we can get.

Besides, Guys know they look dreadful in jumpsuits, so we never have to be told they look bad.

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


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Friday, February 15, 2013

Can You Copyright a Toilet Flush?

Erik is out of the office this week, and is actually driving through the night at deadline time, so we are reprinting this column from 2002.

I thought I had heard it all. Or, it's what I DIDN'T hear that's the problem. Some news from the British music industry may have copyright lawyers wringing their hands and cackling with glee.

Apparently, silence can be copyrighted.

You're probably gaping, open-mouthed, in stunned silence at this. Yes, silence can be copyrighted. And by gaping silently at these words, you're violating that copyright right now.

Okay, maybe not. But creating a silent track on your own CD can actually land you in some legal hot water, as Mike Batt, former member of the UK band The Wombles, is finding out. He's facing a potential lawsuit for copying silence from avant-garde composer John Cage ("avant-garde," from the French meaning "No one cares except a bunch of black turtleneck wearing beatniks.")

According to the London Independent (official motto: "You're Not the Boss of Me!"), Batt received a letter from the Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society, the British organization charged with collecting royalties for composers and publishers.

The MCPS sent him a standard license form for his Postmodern composition, "A One Minute Silence," because he listed Cage as a composer, and demanded royalty payments for his own 60 seconds of non-sound.

"Postmodern" is German for "avant-garde."

The MCPS claims Batt used a quotation from Cage's piece "4 minutes, 33 seconds," a composition composed entirely of four minutes and 33 seconds of dead silence. Cage, being the clever avant-garde artist, named the piece to match its length. It should have been titled "Truly Pointless and Stupid" so it could match the concept instead.

But Batt says this isn't true. "My silence is original silence," he told the Independent, "not a quotation from his silence." And as he said in a National Public Radio interview this week, the composition is also original, because it's digital.

Digital? That's completely different.

The problem started when Batt gave credit to "Batt/Cage" on the composition (he said he did it "for a laugh"). But according to Andante Magazine, Gene Caprioglio, a representative of Cage's American publisher, says that Batt listed Cage on the credits for "obvious reasons. . . to evoke Cage's provocative 1952 composition."

Provocative? There's nothing provocative about four and a half minutes of dead silence. It would be provocative if it were a cover version of "Inna Gadda Davida" played on a xylophone made of herring tins.

But Caprioglio was steadfast. "If Mr. Batt wants to produce a minute of silence under his own name, we would obviously have no right to the royalties."

Cage, obviously having some sort of genius' foresight that his "masterpiece" would possibly be copied by musical ne'er-do-wells, left strict instructions that allowed "4:33" to actually be any length. However, there was no word as to whether the title of the song would change as well, to say, "2:18," "17:00," or "Dear Lord, Will This Thing Never End?!"

Cage's publishers, in an allegedly greedy attempt to get the dozens of pennies earned from Batt's composition, are arguing that Batt actually copied "4:33," but since his song was 3:33 shorter, he only copied part of it.

"As my mother said, 'which part of the silence are they claiming you nicked?'" Batt told the Independent.

What about those little 4 second gaps between songs on CDs? Who owns the copyrights to those? Does Cage, since he wrote the original recorded silence? But would Batt have a shot at them, since he was the first one to record silence digitally, and CDs are a digital medium? And since they're only 12% as long as Cage's original "masterpiece," will the royalties be prorated?

One could conceivably argue that silence existed long before there was life on this planet, and therefore silence is actually in the public domain, which means it can't be copyrighted. It would be like if I tried to copyright the tune of "Good King Wenceslas," which was originally written in the 13th century.

If this is the case, John Cage could never have produced his "4:33," since that was just copying the deathly silence in an empty cave, before all the cavemen came home.

And if all that is true, then not only can Cage's copyright lawyers not collect on Mike Batt's song, but it sounds like Cage's estate needs to repay anyone and everyone he ever collected royalties from.

I have compiled the list in a new piece of literary fiction called "Blank 8.5 x 11."

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and my other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or for the Kindle or Nook.


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Friday, February 08, 2013

Society Has Gotten Ruder. Jerks.

We're getting ruder and more inconsiderate as a society. We're not only less formal — we used to call each other Mister, Missus, and Miss — but people are forgetting even simple manners we were all supposed to learn when we were kids.

When I was a kid, manners were easy. You opened the door for other people. You said "please," "thank you," and "you're welcome. You gave up your bus seat to seniors. And children sat still and behaved in restaurants.

Over the last few years, I've witnessed some abhorrent behavior from people who are close enough to my age that they should know better. They won't open the door for anyone. They rarely say "please," while "you're welcome" has become "no prob!" Seniors are on their own on the bus or anywhere else. And children are allowed to run amok and shriek loudly in restaurants.

What has happened that we no longer care about basic civilities? Since when did it become too burdensome to hold a door open? When did it become acceptable to race ahead of someone, open the door slightly, and slip through, leaving the other person to fend for themselves?

This is behavior normally only seen while driving, especially in the more affluent parts of my city, where rudeness reigns.

Since when did parents decide that children should publicly experience their emotions to the fullest, and will let the screaming brats "cry it out," as the parents go "shh shh shh" in the caterwauling child's ear, whether in a restaurant, movie, or church?

These last few days, I've been at Disney World, the most magical place on Earth. The place where peoples from all nations come together in a massive gathering of peace, harmony, and $12 hamburgers. And I have witnessed some of the most impolite, unkind, and rude behavior.

I have seen people take flash photography in a completely darkened room, where a couple hundred people had gathered. Even though the Disney cast member has asked us to please not take flash photos, someone decides those rules don't apply to her, and snaps her flash, blinding everyone else nearby.

(On one ride, someone snapped a picture directly across from me, "zombie eyes flash" and all. When the first flash went off, I photobombed their shot, wagging a stern finger of warning in their direction. That's one for the album.)

Even the basic rules of "let shorter people in front" have fallen by the wayside. While watching a fireworks display one night, two tall men made sure they had prime spots at a fence railing, standing in front of a little old lady in a wheelchair, her grandson, and several other children so they could have the best view.

Even 20 years ago, these men would have stepped aside to let the shorter people have the better view. It's not like they didn't know any better. These were men in their 60s. Men, one would hope, who were of the age to be taught to be respectful.

They grew up in the days when you held the door open for women, said "yes sir" and "yes ma'am," and children did not go to restaurants. And yet, one 6-foot guy stood at a fence railing and saved a spot for his 6'5" friend, making sure they were the only ones who could enjoy the view.

We already over-exercise our right to feel indignant at the slightest offense. People complain about the tiniest things and expect royal treatment as a groveling apology. They're outraged — OUTRAGED! — at a song lyric, a minor difference of political or theological opinion, or that someone else prefers meat to soy.

They'll rant and rave, bully the offender on Facebook, and and compare them to Hitler, all in the same breath.

Because, apparently there are no more injustices in the world to rail against, so they have to find a place to channel their God-given sense of righteous indignation about the stupidest things.

(And yes, I recognize the irony about writing an entire humor column to rant about other people's sense of indignation.)

But these same people will turn around and commit ruder, larger offenses against others, simply because they don't want to be a little inconvenienced, or because Yoga Teacher Sven said little Ashlynn and Reese need to purge their sadness energies.

Apparently, it's only offensive and rude when someone else does it to them. But they're free to inflict their own brand of rudeness on others in the name of individuality and personal freedom, and they'll get in your face if you don't let them exercise it.

What can we do about it all? We can complain. We can loudly denounce people in public for their boorish behavior. But we'll become one of those righteously indignant jerks everyone else roll their eyes at.

Just don't take flash photography in a darkened room, because you never know who might be photobombing your picture. And it may not be their pointer finger they're waving at you.

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


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