Friday, May 30, 2014

Karl the Curmudgeon Hates Writer's Block

I'm stuck, Karl, I said.

"What?" said Karl. "Are your pants caught on the stool again?"

No, I'm writer stuck. I'm blocked. I can't think of anything to write about.

"You've got writer's block? How in the hell do you get writer's block?"

It's — I don't know. I've been trying to think of a topic for this week's column, but nothing is popping into my brain. I'm dry.

"What are you talking about? You're the Kid, Kid. You don't get writer's block. You talk half as much as you write, and most days, I can't even get you to shut the hell up!" Karl plonked his glass on the bar.

"Tommy, give me two mojitos, please." We were at Hudson's Bar, a Bimini-themed island bar. Bimini is one of the islands in the Bahamas, and we were there for a friend's book launch. It was late and most of the party guests had left. The literary fiction crowd is not known for staying up late, and most of them had bailed by 9:30.

"Listen, Kid, I've been writing since I was 17, and I can count the number of times I've had writer's block on one hand." He slapped the bar. "No, on one finger!

"Writer's block is just some lame excuse created by poseurs and dabblers who wait for 'The Muse' to wave her magic sparkle wand whenever they feel like scribbling in their fake leather hipster notebooks. What was it Terry Pratchett said about writer's block? That it was invented by people in California who couldn't write?"

Something like that, I said, drinking my mojito. Tommy made mojitos the right way, with rum, club soda, lime, and mint leaves.

That's great and all, I said, but that doesn't solve my problem. I think I'm running out of juice. I'm trying to come up with a few ideas for articles, another book, and an editorial calendar for my newspaper column."

"Editorial calendar? You never even think of your topic until about four hours before your deadline."

Shh! I hissed. My editor is over there, and I don't want him getting his panties in a twist in case he's listening. A quick glance that direction assured me my secret was safe. He was too busy trying to put some drunken moves on a creative writing professor from Butler who hadn't dated men since her junior year of high school. I didn't have the heart to tell him he was probably also going to be the subject of her next short story.

So what do you suggest? I asked.

"First, you need to get our of your head. You've been working too hard anyway. Take a break, and go somewhere for a while. Don't do any work, don't take your computer, and don't do anything that has to do with putting words on paper."

But—

"If you have to, take a notebook and a pen. When you get an idea, write it down, then go back to not doing anything."

But—

"In the future, if you find yourself getting stuck, go for a walk, ride your bike, or putter around in your garage. Do something that engages a different part of your brain, so your subconscious can work on the problem.

"But most of all, remember this." Karl leaned in close, grabbed my collar and stuck his gnarled finger in my face. I could smell the mint leaves and rum on his breath. "You're a f---ing professional. Pros never get blocked. They've got too much work to do to get blocked. Plumber's don't get plumber's block. Accountants don't get accountant's block. And professional writers don't get writer's block. They just work on the next damn project."

As he released my collar, I could feel the dam burst and a flood of new ideas raging through my brain. You did it, Karl, you did it! I know what I need to do! I jumped off my bar stool, thumped him on the back, and headed for the door.

You're a real life saver, Old Man. See you later.

"Hey, who's going to cover this bar bill," he hollered after me.

No time to talk, I called back. The gates have burst open. Time's a-wastin'!

I walked back to my car and patted my empty back pocket. I was going to have to remember not to use the writer's block scam the next time I forgot my wallet.



The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and 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. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on Amazon.com
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Friday, May 23, 2014

Gabby Chaves Wins 2014 Indy Lights Freedom 100

Gabby Chaves pipped Matthew Brabham at the post of the 2014 Indy Lights Freedom 100. It's being called the 3rd closest Indy Lights victory, following a razor close Chicagoland race and last year's finish when Peter Dempsey beat Gabby Chaves by .0026 seconds



Brabham, driving for Andretti Autosport, is the grandson of Sir Jack Brabham, Formula 1 champion in 1959, 1960, and 1966. When Sir Jack died a few days ago, there were many tributes and signs of respect and mourning around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, so it's nice to see his grandson carrying on the family tradition.

One thing I've noticed about these Indy Lights drivers is that they have the same nerves of steel as the IndyCar drivers. At one point, Chaves was drafting off Brabham, sitting this|close to his rear that all Brabham had to do was let off the throttle and Chaves would have driven under him.



This is yet another exciting Indy Lights finish I've been able to witness. This is my sixth year at the Speedway, and only my second Lights race. But it's enough to make me a fan, and to pay attention throughout the year now.

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and 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. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on Amazon.com
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My Lens Is Bigger Than Yours

Erik is out of the office this week, so we are rerunning a column from 2003. He's been using a camera a lot lately, but he hasn't improved very much beyond when he wrote this column.

I've always enjoyed photography, although I haven't always had the necessary equipment. When I took a photojournalism class in college, I fancied myself a younger, less depressing Ansel Adams, and thought I was just two-hundredths of a second away from shooting dramatic news photos for the Associated Press in foreign locales.

I had one serious problem though: my eyesight.

My eyesight, even with the latest and greatest optical correction technology, cannot be restored to perfect 20/20 vision. As a result, whenever I would take a picture, I focused to what looked good to me, rather than what was actually clear and sharp. As a result, my pictures were always slightly out of focus. Looks like the only photojournalism I would be doing is taking blurry pictures of aliens for the Weekly World News.

"What's this amorphous blob?" my instructor would ask.

"That's some of my teammates at soccer practice," I said.

"And what's this amorphous blob?"

"A firetruck racing to a fire."

"Then what are all these scattered and mangled blobs?"

"The firetruck took a wrong turn and ended up on the soccer field."

Of course, there was no pleasing this guy. No matter what photo anyone took, there was always something wrong with it. Always.

My friend, Joel, took the class a year later and managed to catch a picture of a huge house fire, which was published in the school paper. He also received a B for that photo because he didn't take any photos from a higher point of view, like from a firefighter's ladder. Never mind that he had to put himself in harm's way to get the photo. If he had lost some skin, he might have eked out an A-.

When the semester ended, my dreams of being a photojournalist died, killed by my poor eyesight and my instructor's advice to stick with writing. Also, I had to return my dad's camera.

But finally after 16 years of wondering "what if," my patience was rewarded with a brand-new 35 millimeter single-lens reflex camera for my birthday.

It's a macho, manly camera with interchangeable zoom lenses and detachable flash (each sold separately), unlike sissy cameras that have a fixed lens and built-in flash my wife uses for family photos.

But best of all, my camera is an auto-focus, so I don't take pictures of blobs anymore.

Me: Honey, look at all the great pictures I took at the beach from our vacation. See, no amorphous blobs!

My wife: Wonderful. The photos of all these bikini-clad women are in sharp focus.

I was recently at a family gathering where I had a chance to use my new camera. Unfortunately, there are certain members of my family who hate having their picture taken, regardless of the occasion.

"I hate having my picture taken!" they exclaim. "I look awful."

Of course, that's because the only way you can take their picture is to sneak up behind them, say their name, and snap it as soon as they turn around. And as you would expect, they look surprised, angry, and their mouth is hanging open like they've got brain damage. Every photo we take looks like this. I'll bet their driver's license photo looks this way too.

Police officer: "This photo looks nothing like you."

Family members: "Hold up a camera and startle me."

Police officer: "Okay, I see it now!"

I've never understood what all the fuss is about. We all know pictures can't steal a person's soul (not like video cameras). And the photos will never be seen except by other family members or visitors who make the mistake of asking if we have any photo albums.

I just don't worry about having my photo taken. They're a way of preserving memories. They bring our personal histories back to life. We can recall the smells and sounds from those all-too-brief moments, and remember what made them special enough to take the pictures in the first place.

And makes everyone think my family is just a bunch of angry, startled mouth breathers.



The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and 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. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on Amazon.com
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Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Field Is Set for the 2014 Indianapolis 500

After quite the nail biter, and the new qualifying format at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the field has been set for the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500. Ed Carpenter sits on the pole for the second year in a row. (If racing encyclopedia Donald Davis were sitting behind me in the Media Center, I could ask him whether this has been done before. But he went home a while ago.)

Here are your starting 33 for the race next Sunday.

1. Ed Carpenter, Ed Carpenter Racing
2. James Hinchcliffe, Andretti Autosport
3. Will Power, Team Penske

4. Helio Castroneves, Team Penske
5. Simon Pagenaud, Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports
6. Marco Andretti, Andretti Autosport

7. Carlos Muñoz, Andretti - HVM
8. Josef Newgarden, Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing
9. JR Hildebrand, Ed Carpenter Racing

10. Juan Pablo Montoya, Penske Motorsports
11. Scott Dixon, Target Chip Ganassi Racing
12. Kurt Busch, Andretti Autosport

13. Jack Hawksworth, BHA/BBM with Curb Agajanian
14. Justin Wilson, Dale Coyne Racing
15. Mikhail Aleshin, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports

16. Tony Kanaan, Target Chip Ganassi Racing
17. Sebastien Bourdais, KVSH Racing
18. Oriol Servia, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

19. Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport
20. Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
21. Carlos Huertas, Dale Coyne Racing

22. Pippa Mann, Dale Coyne Racing
23. Takuma Sato, A.J. Foyt Enterprises
24. Alex Tagliani, Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing

25. Townsend Bell, KV Racing Technology
26. Charlie Kimball, Chip Ganassi Racing Teams
27. Jacques Villeneuve, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports

28. James Davison, KV Racing Technology
29. Martin Plowman, A.J. Foyt Enterprises
30. Ryan Briscoe, NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing

31. Sage Karam, Dreyer and Reinbold - Kingdom Racing
32. Sebastian Saavedra, KVAFS Racing
33. Buddy Lazier, Lazier Partners Racing



The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and 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. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on Amazon.com
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Bump Day is now Pole Day, Pole Day was Bump Day at the Indianapolis 500

The bastion of tradition, the place where new ideas are looked on with suspicion, the Indianapolis 500 has revamped qualifications for the 98th running of the iconic race.

In years past, Day 1 of qualifications was Saturday, also known as Pole Day. The fastest runner on Saturday — the driver who completed 4 laps faster than anyone else — was determined to be the pole sitter, and they got as many drivers qualified as possible.

On Day 2 — Bump Day — the remaining drivers fought to be in the field of 33. If there were more than 33, than the driver sitting in 33rd was "on the bubble," and driver after driver would try to pick him or her off, and bump them out of the field. So Bump Day was pretty exciting, because everyone was scrambling to qualify and then tweak the engine to get even a little more speed out of the car.

Compare that to the very first two races of Indy 500 history. NBC researcher Rick Schaffer says that the starting field of 40 drivers was determined by who mailed in their entry first.

But this year is completely different. This year everything has changed, and Bump Day, such as it was, was yesterday. Pole Day is today.

Yesterday, 33 drivers competed for a spot in the 33 driver field. If there had been more drivers, we would have had some bumping, but the drivers were only racing to make the top 9 spots If you were 10th through 33rd, it didn't matter. There was no bumping, so there was no last minute racing to try to bump #33 out and you in.

That Brings Us To Today: Pole Day

This year, Sunday is Pole Day. Today is when the top 9 drivers from yesterday (led by Ed Carpenter, who qualified with a 2:36.0735 and 230.661 mph). And today is the day when drivers 10 – 30 compete for their starting spot in the field next Sunday. Numbers 31 – 33 would usually compete for their spots separately.

Here's what the Indianapolis 500 Qualifying 101 cheat sheet says about how it works:

Group 1 (Positions 10 – 30)

  • All Saturday times are erased and positions 10 – 30 will re-qualify to determine starting position.
  • Order will be the reverse of Saturday's rankings.
  • All cars will make one attempt.
  • Lineup will be determined based on fastest four-lap averages.
  • In the event that there are only 33 cars entered, this group will determine positions 10 – 33.

Group 2 (Positions 31 - 33):

  • All Saturday times are erased and positions 31 - 33 and any entry that has yet to make one attempt to qualify, will then qualify to determine the 11th row of the race.
  • Teams cam make multiple attempts.

Group 3 (Top Nine Shootout)

  • The top nine cars will run in reverse order based on Saturday's times.
  • All cars will make one attempt.
  • At the end of the session, the cars are ranked 1 – 9 based on their four-lap average during the session.

This year, since there were only 33 cars to enter, there is no group 2. So right now, Sage Karam, Sebastian Saavedra, and Buddy Lazier are sitting in the last row, even though Alex Tagliani, Martin Plowman(R), and Buddy Lazier were there as of yesterday. Lazier apparently did not manage to improve his situation. He'll remain in 33rd unless one of the other drivers blows his qualifying run. (I say "his," because this year's only female driver, Pippa Mann, has already run.)

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and 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. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on Amazon.com
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Friday, May 16, 2014

Breakfast Sandwiches Pose Serious Danger

Several years ago, when I worked in crisis communication for the state health department, many of my colleagues were retired career military types who were working in Emergency Response as a post-retirement job.

Because managing public health emergencies is so relaxing.

As emergency responders, we often worked with the Indiana Department of Homeland Security (IDHS), which is made up of former cops and firefighters who provide training and resources to emergency managers and first responders around the state.

Whenever our agency got together with their agency, there was a lot of hearty back slapping, gallows humor, and stories that started with, "Oh yeah? That's nothing. Let me tell you about. . . "

If you ever want to meet people with more testosterone than former military officers, it's former cops and firefighters. Whenever we met with IDHS, I wore a rain coat to avoid the spray from everyone marking their territories. The room was always so filled with thick mustaches, that even with my bushy goatee, I felt like a 13-year-old kid who just sprouted his first chin hair.

One year, when we had a booth at the Indiana State Fair, IDHS had their booth across the way, promoting personal safety and fire prevention.

That's where I learned irony smells like burned plastic.

As the evening fell and lights came on in the IDHS booth, there was a loud BZZT!, a puff of smoke, and an acrid burning smell as their extension cord overloaded and burst into flames.

"I thought you guys were professionals," I called over, razzing them in a way that only government agencies can do to mask that you really despise each other.

"I love the smell of burning plastic at night," machoed one former firefighter, swaggering out to retrieve the now-melted extension cord.

"That doesn't smell like victory," I told him, citing the obligatory Apocalypse Now response. His mustache pointed finger guns at me and winked.

Emergency responders tend not be very much fun at parties, or anywhere ever, because they see the potential for danger and terrorist attacks in everything. To be fair, it was our job to be hyperaware of the worst that could happen and then prepare for it. I was very good at imagining the worst, which was "me dying."

We trained for responses to flu pandemics, contaminated food supplies, anthrax attacks, and my personal favorite, nuclear bombs.

By "favorite," I mean the thing that worried me constantly, and made me call my wife to make sure we had enough emergency supplies for when terrorists attacked Indianapolis.

But Indiana's emergency responders were soundly trounced in blowing things out of proportion by a single cop from Nova Scotia.

In an article on the CBC website, Officer Bruce O'Reilly of the Halifax Regional Police spoke alarmingly about the biggest danger his city commuters faced: breakfast sandwiches.

"You may as well be chewing on a gun," O'Reilly told the CBC. "All that melted cheese and sausage or bacon? It's game over for concentration."

I imagined Officer O'Reilly, push broom mustache flapping in the breeze, explaining the Brake for Breakfast program, which educates people about driving while eating a breakfast sandwich.

"As soon as you're done swallowing one warm mouthful of salty meat, egg and cheese, you immediately want another. Your mouth waters as you plunge the flavourful disc into your mouth and then ... BANG, you've T-boned a hearse and there's a body on the freeway. That actually happened."

O'Reilly didn't specify whose body, although I assumed it was the already-dead one.

"If you have to eat in the car, fine, just make it something that won't distract you like dry toast or one of those awful green smoothies," said O'Reilly.

Was this guy serious, or was he the master of overdramatization? I mean, the guys in Indiana could be scary, but breakfast sandwiches? What about donuts? Or breakfast burritos? Or even hamburgers for breakfast? Didn't he have anything to say about that?

No. Because it wasn't true. None of it.

It turns out the entire piece was a spoof, and never actually intended to be a real news story, even though it had been reported in dozens of media outlets and blogs. I even believed it.

The clue should have been that it was posted on the "This Is That" site, which, I learned, is a news satire show on CBC radio.

In my defense, I'm not from Canada, and only listen to a couple of Canadian podcasts. Plus, I thought Canadians were too polite for satire. So my misunderstanding is understandable.

The real Halifax police even responded via Twitter, "True or False? Police in NS are holding a grudge against breakfast sandwiches. False. We're more concerned about donuts. Ha ha. . . Eat your breakfast sandwiches responsibly. #RoadSafetyWeek."

But I have to give This Is That credit. I'm skeptical of any news story that looks or sounds a little over the top. It's why I didn't believe Sharknado was a real show at first. And why I don't believe anything on Facebook. But this one got me, hook, line, and bacon.

They painted a picture of an over-enthusiastic first responder who sees a threat behind every rock, or smothered in every slice of cheese. I might have caught the joke if I hadn't worked with these guys for 18 months, but I have too many memories and images from my days protecting Hoosiers from anthrax and contaminated lunch meat.

So, congratulations This Is That, for pulling one over on me. I commend you.

But my goatee will be keeping an eye on you from now on.



The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and 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. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on Amazon.com
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Friday, May 09, 2014

It's Eat or Be Eaten in Canadian Wilderness

I'm not your textbook fisherman. I know how to fish, I even like to fish. And I get a thrill of excitement whenever I actually get one on the line.

It's the actual touching of the fish that icks me out.

This was a problem when I would go for fly-in fishing trips to Canada with my father-in-law and brother-in-law. These are trips out to the Canadian wilderness, a part of North America that makes your weekend camping trip look like croissants and cappuccino at a sidewalk cafe. At least until I show up with a pair of gardening gloves and needle nose pliers to avoid any fishy contact.

The outfitter would fly us in on a Saturday, check on us on Wednesday to make sure no one died, and then picked us up the following Saturday. Since humans can live without food for three weeks, and it takes a few days for any waterborne disease to take kill you, we just had to wait for the plane to return and hope we didn't meet any bears.

"If something happens," they said, "go out to one of the islands and set it on fire. The fire service will be along shortly to check it out, and they can fly you out if someone is dying."

You bring your own food in, of course. No one wants to live only on fish. Besides, you have to have backup in case you get skunked for a day or two. One year, we were skunked for nearly four days, but we had plenty of food. Most years, you take food back, or leave it for the next group. That year, we were down to a few cans, and the others kept looking at me like I was a giant steak.

It's also a great time to eat food you don't normally eat, or aren't allowed to eat. You don't take wives on a trip like this, which means no carbs, no Paleo, no South Beach, no organic anything. If you want organic food, you look for it in the woods and hope you don't get trampled by a moose. But if a bear finds you, you are the tasty organic treat.

Hapless tourist: the other pink meat.

A good fisherman can fillet a fish without leaving any meat on the skin, leaving solid fillets that remain intact. A poor fisherman has mangled fillets that fall to bits while it's being cooked. The broken bits go to the chef while no one is looking. A sort of secret cooking gratuity.

My father-in-law is so good, he can fillet a fish in 10 second flat. The one time I tried, I did a better than average job, having watched him for five years. I just told him to make sure the fish were dead first — sometimes when he fillets fish, there's still a little, let's say, "spasming" left in them.

Whoever didn't clean the fish or cook dinner had to haul the guts in a plastic bucket to a nearby island for dumping. After I dumped the guts, I'd move away from the island and sit for a while, because I liked watching the scavenger birds fly in. So many fishermen have done this over the years, the birds know when it's dinnertime. It's a sort of a Pavlovian aviary response: boats come in, men stand around the table, a man goes back out in the boat, and it's time to eat.

The birds even had a hierarchy — a pecking order, if you will — about who went first. There was a bald eagle that would perch on the highest tree, while the delivery guy dropped off dinner. He went first. The other birds — hawks and crows, mostly — waited nearby for the eagle to make his move. Once he took his share, the rest pounced and fought over what was left.

It was weird to learn that our national bird was actually a carrion bird that eats leftover fish guts, and not a mighty hunter that preyed on America's foes and crapped fireworks. Benjamin Franklin may have had a point in lobbying for the wild turkey to be our national bird after all.

It's been several years since one of our fishing trips, and I can almost forget what it's like to be out there all alone. When it's very quiet, and I close my eyes, I can still hear the boat's motor as we trolled for walleye and pike, hoping and praying we catch enough to eat for dinner that night.

Because it's rather awkward to wake up and catch your fishing buddies standing over you with forks and a bottle of barbecue sauce twice in one week.



The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and 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. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on Amazon.com
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Friday, May 02, 2014

(Don't) Read Banned Books!

When I was four, my dad made me get my finger bitten by a rat.

My dad has been a psychology professor at Ball State University for 45 years. Early in his career, he worked with lab rats, performing experiments designed to make psychologists giggle with delight whenever their hypotheses were confirmed.

One day, my dad wanted to show me where he worked and what he did. When we got to the lab, he said the one thing that would make me stick my finger in a rat cage.

He said, "Don't stick your finger in the rat cage."

We spent the rest of the afternoon at the hospital, where I got a tetanus shot and a bandage. My dad also learned a valuable lesson in the Psychology of Erik: Erik will not do what he is told, he will do what he is told not to.

When I was a high school sophomore, this was a valuable strategy to get me to read certain books, like Slaughterhouse-Five or Catch-22.

One day, I was walking past the college bookstore, and saw a poster announcing Banned Books Week. It showed several books that had been banned for being obscene, immoral, using foul language, or promoting ideas that went against the values of the local community.

The next day, I checked out three of the books from the library.

At 15, these were not books I would have ever picked out for myself. I preferred science fiction, fantasy, and comic books. But tell me I'm not allowed to read certain books and you galvanize me into action. I become a silent protestor, a literary dissident, a foot soldier in the battle against the embargo of erudition.

My new reading taught me to like all kinds of authors and their strange ideas. I became a serious Kurt Vonnegut fan, especially of Breakfast Of Champions.

(Readers of BOC will appreciate knowing I have a t-shirt with. . . that symbol and a red "No" circle on it. For those of you who don't know what that means, you'll have to read the book. Or, you're not allowed to read it. Whichever motivates you.)

Catch-22, which was banned in several states in the 1970s, became one of my all-time favorites; I still have the copy my uncle loaned me in 1987.

Even the Bible has been banned or challenged throughout the world, but it was already so full of "thou shalt nots" that I worried what I might do if I read it. I've managed to read it since then without committing any of the more egregious sins. I haven't murdered, fornicated, or stolen, so I have that going for me.

In 2014, we live in an age when we're supposed to embrace new ideas and encourage independent thought, but there are still people who think it's acceptable to ban books they deem "unacceptable" from their community.

A recent article in Canada's National Post newspaper says last year the Toronto Public Library received a request to ban Dr. Seuss' book, Hop On Pop, on the grounds that it "encourages children to use violence against their fathers." The complaint demanded the library remove the book, issue an apology to the city, and pay for damages resulting from the book.

Violence? It's Hop On Pop, not Let's Bludgeon Dad.

The library rightly rejected the request — this part made me sad — after "careful consideration."

Why would you carefully consider a request like that? If it had been me, I would have casually glanced at the request, hollered "F--- NO!" wadded it up and thrown it behind me without looking to see if anyone was back there. That's how uncarefully I would have considered it.

The library's Materials Review Committee released a report that specifically said, "the children are actually told not to hop on Pop." Which is what the weenie complainer would have known if they had just turned the page.

I agree there are some books that should not be read by young children. They don't have the emotional maturity to handle the issues and language in those books. They can make the decisions to read though-provoking literature when they're older and can think for themselves.

But it's a close-minded, meddling society that inoculates itself against new ideas and new ways of thinking by banning books, and they need to be stopped. For my fellow literary dissidents, if you want to have a positive influence on your kids, teach them to be well-read rebels, to think for themselves, and to never let anyone tell them how they should live their own lives.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to read Hop On Pop to my teenagers.



The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and 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. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on Amazon.com
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