Friday, August 29, 2014

Are You Ready to Celebrate September?

By the time you read this, it will be September, and fall will be just around the corner. September, like every month, is filled with commemorative days, special weeks, and month-long celebrations. And when you've got a deadline to meet just a few days before the month begins, what better way to celebrate and meet your contractual obligations than looking at all these special days?

It's unusual for me to write this before September even begins, because I'm usually a few days late for this kind of thing, which is why Be Late for Something Day (September 5th) is my day. The planners probably meant to have it on the 1st, but didn't get their act together in time.

It's Fight Procrastination Day on the 7th, and I should probably make some joke about celebrating later, but that's too predictable, so I'll skip it. You can thank me on the 21st, when it's World Gratitude Day.

September is both International Square Dancing Month and Self-Improvement Month, which, I think if you celebrate one, you're not allowed to celebrate the other.

And now that I've managed to offend both square dancers and the self-help crowd, let me tell you about Pardon Day on the 8th. It's the day where we seek forgiveness where it's needed. It's the day we say "pardon me" or "excuse me" or "I'm sorry, I was just going for a cheap joke. Please don't do an angry clog dance in front of my house."

For those of you who don't want to celebrate Self-Improvement Month, but instead see September as I Have An Empty Hole In My Life Self-Loathing Month, there are plenty of comfort food days for you. There's Cream-Filled Donut Day on the 14th, Chocolate Milkshake Day and National Cheeseburger Day on the 12th and 18th respectively.

September is also Better Breakfast Month, and with a donut, a chocolate milkshake, and a cheeseburger, breakfast can't get any better. Well, almost. International Bacon Day is always the Saturday before Labor Day (September 1), which means it's August 30 this year, and we missed it by thismuch for September.

In the spirit of Be Late For Something Day, we could just celebrate International Bacon Day whenever we felt like it this month.

For dessert, it's National Apple Dumpling Day on the 17th, National Butterscotch Pudding Day on the 19th, and Cherries Jubilee Day on the 24th followed by Tell Me What Cherries Jubilee Are Day on the 25th. The 26th is No Seriously, I Don't Know What Cherries Jubilee Are Day.

And don't let me forget Cheese Pizza Day on the 5th, which is followed by Why Even Bother? Day and Seriously, Who Doesn't Like Pepperoni? Day.

Speaking of apples and apple dumplings, it's Johnny Appleseed Day on the 26th. As every good Hoosier knows, Jonathan Chapman may have spent a lot of time in Ohio, but his remaining years were in and around the Fort Wayne area. According to local legend, he's even buried in Fort Wayne in Johnny Appleseed Park, although the organizers of the Johnny Appleseed Festival (the third weekend of September) say that no one is entirely sure where he's buried. But I won't argue the point too loudly, since September is also National Courtesy Month.

For all you working families, it's Working Parents Day on the 16th. And just like every year, we would have celebrated, but we were too tired when we got home. So we heated up some Spaghetti-O's for everyone and fell asleep on the couch watching TV.

For those of you who want to be historically accurate when getting hammered while celebrating other cultures' holidays, you should know that September 16th is the actual day of Mexican Independence, and not May 5th, or Cinco de Mayo, a day where many Americans celebrate their misunderstanding of history by wearing giant sombreros and drink Corona "beer." May 5th actually celebrates Mexico's victory over the French army at the Battle of Puebla in 1862.

In what may be one of the only French military victories, the French army re-defeated the Mexicans and installed Emperor Maximilian on April 10, 1864, yet, no one puts on black berets or drinks cheap red wine on that day. Maybe we should celebrate Surprising French Military Victory Day next April.

If you have any other great ideas for celebratory days in September, let me hear from you. But you'd better hurry, because the deadline is September 10th, which is Swap Ideas Day.

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

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Friday, August 22, 2014

Too Lazy; Couldn't Be Bothered

"Kids these days," said Karl, rolling his eyes at me.

What'd I do? I asked.

"I said 'kids,' not middle-aged men," he cackled.

Whatever, King Old Fart, I said. Karl is my 60+ year old curmudgeon friend who calls me Kid, since I'm nearly 20 years younger than him. We were at First Editions, our favorite literary bar, where Karl was supposed to do a reading of one of his short stories. He liked to have a couple drinks before he read, because he always got stage fright at his own readings. The biggest bag of wind I knew could talk at length about any topic, whether he knew anything about it, yet he still got stage fright reading his own stuff.

So what put this burr in your saddle? They running amok on your lawn again?

"No, nothing like that. I was talking to my grandson last week, and I asked him if he had read my last short story." Karl often tried to make his 15-year-old grandson read his works in the hopes that it would spark an interest in literature in him. Or reading. Or breathing through his nose.

What'd he say?

"He said—" Karl closed his eyes and shook his head at the memory. "He said, 'No, what's the tl;dr on it?'"

Seriously, tl;dr?

"Yeah, do you know what that is?"

It's hipster Internet slang for ' too long; didn't read.'

"More like 'too lazy; couldn't be bothered.'"

Yeah, it doesn't speak too highly of the people who use it, I said. They usually use it when an article is over 500 words.

"Or 'too long; didn't understand it.'"

Yeah, that's—

"Or 'too long; too stupid to—'"

Karl, I get it, I said. I waved down Kurt the bartender and asked for two more beers. So what did you say to him? I asked.

"I asked him what it meant, and he told me the whole background, complete with the semi-colon. I said, 'it would have taken you less time to just read the damn story.'

"He said, 'You have to understand young people these days, G-pa—'"

G-pa? I said.

"Who knows. Anyway, he says I have to understand that Generation Y, whoever they are—"

People between the ages of 17 and 27, I said.

"I know who they are! I'm old, not an idiot." Karl took a big drink from his beer. "Anyway, he says, 'Gen Y gets most of its info on mobile phones. Anything longer than 300 words, and we can't be bothered. If we have to swipe our phones more than twice, then we give it the ol' tl;dr so everyone else knows they shouldn't bother.'"

Wait, so they encourage laziness?

"That's what I said. 'So you tell your mouth-breathing friends to avoid anything that might tax their tiny brains?' That's when I noticed one of his slacker friends sitting in the corner. Little punk said, 'Well, I've never actually read any of your stuff either.'"

What did you say? I asked.

"'That's not surprising. I use a lot of big words. Your lips would get tired.'"

I laughed at that.

"Poor kid didn't know what to say. 'Too dumb; couldn't respond,' I guess."

Karl finished his beer, wiped his mouth, and plonked the empty mug on the bar.

"The problem is, we're not encouraging intelligence and learning in our kids. Smart people are looked down on and ridiculed. You're considered a nerd if you read more than one book a year, and even that's pushing it!

"We had a president who took great pride in not only not reading, he had his secretary of state read briefing reports to him because he couldn't be bothered. We spend more time teaching kids math skills, to the point that literature takes a backseat, while art education is nonexistent. And this Generation Whine—"

Y, I said.

"Whatever. Generation Y seems to think that being illiterate and dumb is a badge of honor, as if possessing limited intelligence and knowledge is something to be lauded. We should encourage reading of longer works, sending people to to see some real writing."

So what does this have to do with tl;dr? I asked.

"It's a symptom of a bigger problem. The people who say tl;dr are proudly broadcasting their laziness to the world. The L shouldn't stand for long, it should mean 'I'm a lazy slug who can't read anything longer than 500 words without needing a nap.'"

What are you reading tonight? I asked Karl.

"The first chapter of my latest book."

Just the first chapter? That's like, what, four pages?

"Yeah, I don't want to be up there that long."

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

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Friday, August 15, 2014

Who Neds Copy Editors! Not Us?

This piece was written with misspellings, typos, and factual errors on purpose. And, with any luck, my newspaper editors didn't edit them out or spontaneously combust, when I sent this in.

It turns out we dont need copy editors in news-papers anymore. At least the Indianapolis Star doesn't. They have layed off their entire copy editor staff, as they prepare to move into their new offices in the Circle Centre Mall in downtown Indianapolis. (New marketing slogan: Free Cinnabon with every subscription!)

Star editor, Jeff Something — Tailor? Taylor? — calls these cutbacks a evolution — Taylor! It's Jeff Taylor! — and that their "strengthening our bridge to the future." A future where everyone is smarter and can spell and write good, thanks to the increased focus on math testing and decreased reading time in schools, as part of George Wallace Bush's No Child Remaining Behind.

Copy editors do more than just catch typoes and grammer errors. They check facts, they make sure a story flows well, like a bottle of watered down ketchup, and that the language sounds pleasing to the eye. Also, they make sure your stories make sense.

That reminds me of a joke my grandmother used to tell. It was "You can always—" No wait, "You can never—" I don't know. See a copy editor would have helped me figure it out. Or at least deleted this whole paragraph since it's like a broken pencil at the bottom of a kid's backpack when he comes home from school and drops the bag on the floor: it's pointless.

Jeff Taylor — is it Taylor? Now I'm not sure. Sort of like when you unplug the iron, but then your husband or wife asks if you unplugged the iron, and then you can't remember if you unplugged the iron, so you have to drive back to see if you unplugged the iron — said that these layoffs are there way of "recast(ing) our newsroom."

They're expanding the reporting staff, so they can "(be) responsive to the interests of our readers in real time," which from what I've seen is mostly stories about people being shot, apartment fires, and the Kardashians.

The Star plans to expand their investigative reporting, business reporting, digital media and social media, and "expanded reporting on our quality of life and things to do." So more news about fancy restaurants, microbreweries, and art galleries. But not just any old schlocky coverage. They'll have "experts" who are really smart about eating food, drinking beer, and looking at art. Expect a lot more articles on holiday food recipes too, starting each June.

According to the Indianapolis Business Journal, "some jobs" include 5 of their 11 photographers — which is, like, 75% of their total photo staff — and the entire copy editing staff, "which reviews and polishes news stories before publication."

Instead, copy editing will be outsourced to the Philippines, where young children who learned English by watching old Miami Vice videos, will proofread the articles. Or it will be done by the remaining people on staff.

And all the reporters theyre adding? The Indianapolis Newspaper Guild, which has swanky offices with burgundy carpet and a lot of leather-bound books, says this is the sixth round of layoffs at the Star in six years, and will only result in six more reporters on staff.

Which makes me wonder if Satan is possible controlling the executive leadership at Gannett, the company that owns America Today newspapers, plus a million other newspapers around the U.S.

With these latest layoffs, a lot of media professionals aren't just losing jobs, but ending careers. These are people who spent years honing their craft, and are being cast aside for more cell phone photos and restaurant reviews.

Yet newspaper executives are continually — or is it continuously? If only someone knew! — flabbergasted that their readership keeps plummeting like a fish out of water, and so they lay off the people who actually make the paper interesting and readable.

In the past, the Star has fired popular columnists and writers, and then are shocked when people quit buying the paper. So they hire a few 24-year-old replacements to write more restaurant stories, and don't understand why the numbers keep dropping, which leads to another round of cuts, and we're again back to first square.

If they truly wanted to stop the bleeding, they would instead fire the managers who keep making boneheaded decisions to cut the news staff on a newspaper.

If you made it this far, you've seen why copy editors are so important. (At least I hope so. Otherwise, I despair for our schools).

We need editors. They take bad copy like this and make it readable. They take decent copy and make it art. They're the reason your newspapers sound like they were written by literate adults, and not a bunch of mouth breathers.

The Star is showing extreme short-sightedness by removing that final layer of quality assurance, the people who make sure words are spelled correctly, grammar is correct, and that all facts have been checked and verified before publication. It's not worth it for the sake of more reporters writing more articles when the writers everyone wanted are already gone.

Because the most important thing to — Taylor! It's Taylor. I finally found it on their website.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons (Wikipedia, Creative Commons)

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

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Friday, August 08, 2014

Inventing the Caller ID of the Future

"Caller ID should be more detailed," said my Facebook friend, Susan A. "'Wants help moving,' 'Going to whine,' 'Will ask to borrow money.'"

I told her I was stealing the idea, and started thinking what this could mean for people who need to know why someone is calling them. My wife and I got rid of our home landline about 10 years ago, since the only people who ever called us on it were telemarketers. We saw no reason to spend 40 bucks a month so telemarketers could call us at dinnertime only to be hung up on five seconds later.

The only thing I miss about a real telephone is being able to slam it down on tele-pests, hoping the percussive blast would rupture an eardrum, or rattle their brains enough so that they rethought their entire life plan. There's no satisfying way to stab a smartphone button with your finger and have it make the same explosive smash as a solid handset made with high-impact plastic.

So what if we could create this new caller ID that would measure your caller's true intention for calling, or better yet, tell you the hidden reason for their call? We could call it "caller QT," as in "keep it on the Q.T." The term Q.T. possibly comes from 19th century England, and means "keep it quiet." Since many people already want to block caller ID so no one know who's calling, our new caller QT system can bypass that and tell us why they want to bother us.

Let's say you're a parent of a teenage daughter, and the phone rings 20 minutes before curfew. In the old days you would have to argue with her about why she needed to be there on time, even though she and Rachel were having a great time together, before you finally reluctantly agreed that one more hour would be fine.

The new caller QT would tell you why she's calling. "Not really at Rachel's. I'm with my boyfriend, Tommy."

Then you can just answer the phone without having to listen to her lie about her whereabouts: "Tell Tommy to bring you home right now" hang up, and shout "Boom, busted!" Think of the arguments it would prevent if you could just shut that down immediately.

Or imagine you're leaving work a couple hours early on a Friday, and you get a call from your boss. In the old days, you had to answer it to see what she needed. Turns out, she needed your help with a project, and you couldn't leave.

Now with the caller QT, the message will tell you not to answer: "Going to ask you to come in early tomorrow to finish these TPS reports, because I have tickets to Robin Thicke." This tells you that you shouldn't answer the phone, and accidentally drop it. In front of a semi. From a bridge.

Similarly, when a co-worker calls, the caller QT can tell you, "Wants to remind you of your report for the committee meeting. You know, the one you've skipped for the last three weeks." You know you can safely ignore that one, since your co-worker is an overachieving bossy pants who really just needs to climb off your back.

With the new caller QT, you can know what kind of mood your mom is in. (Hint, she's not happy because you haven't called her in two weeks.) You know why your pretentious sister-in-law is calling. ("Can you watch the kids? Stephen and I want to get away for a three-day weekend because baby Molly has colic and Atticus may be coming down with chicken pox.)

And it's great for knowing why sales people are calling. The caller QT would tell you whether "you need this," "you don't need this," or "this guy won't stop talking just because you say no, and you'll end up shouting at him and slamming the phone down, which is bad for your blood pressure, and your wife is going to ask you tonight if you remembered to take your pill this morning and won't give it a moment's rest because you forgot, which will raise your blood pressure again and she'll end up screaming at you 'YOU NEED TO STAY CALM! THE DOCTOR SAID STRESS IS BAD FOR YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE!' like a hyperactive Edith Bunker."

Of course, this has to be a secret device. We can't let everyone have a caller QT, otherwise, my friends might know why I'm calling them: "Feeling bored today at the office by himself and is hoping you'll go to lunch with him so he's not sad and depressed by the end of the day."

Photo credit: Dan Dickinson (Flickr, Creative Commons

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

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Saturday, August 02, 2014

Ars Repulsis by Bob Rempfer

Most people don't know, but my middle name is Rempfer, so named after the family who took care of my dad while he was growing up in Forest Grove, OR. Bob and Gert Rempfer were college professors at Portland State University, Bob in Math and Gert in Physics.

Bob was also a prolific letter writer and budding humorist, something my namesake and I have in common.

Recently, when I was helping my mom go through some of her old letters, I came across a couple of essays Bob had written and sent to my parents back in May 1973. I thought his essay Ars Repulsis, was funny and is the kind of thing my dad always enjoys. All his missives were written on a typewriter, and had the kinds of tabs and spacing I would expect from a frequent and frenetic typer — something else we share in common.

I took the letter and retyped it here, unedited, so I could share it with my readers.

Ars Repulsis by Bob Rempfer

In Medical Schools (one of its professors told me the other day), people study the course of DISEASE and how to prolong it by prolonging the life of its victims. They do not, alas, study HEALTH and how to prolong it.

I was reminded of that recently when taking inventory of my friends who still correspond with me. As, in days of approaching senility, my own correspondence GROWS I have found to my surprise that my incoming correspondence is DIMINISHING.

I conveyed this dilemma to an acquaintance, Horst Wottaflab, who always SEEKS ME out, and he came up with what must be the answer:

"You have rediscovered one of the secrets only known to the Ancients -- the Ars Repulsis. It was practiced by a sect of those who Wanted to Be Alone. They are known to have succeeded brilliantly. Of course, they died out in the process."

Having said this, Horst went on

"Since mankind today appears to be groping toward a rediscovery of that Art, and since you appear to be a Foremost Exponent of the Art, you appear to be destined for UNDYING FAME. You have only to write your Memoirs in the Ars Repulsis and your name will go down to a Glory that will Last as long as the Human Race, which is to say on present estimates about FIVE or SIX years, i.e. until about the middle of the Agnew Administration (in other words about the time everybody would rather be dead anyway)!"

So, in quest of this FEEBLE GLORY, I hereby write my Memoirs in the Ars Repulsis.

The easiest is to develop this in a series of case histories.

1. A half dozen friends of mine had investment interests. You all know of the "friend" who looks at the pictures on your walls (some of which you drew yourself) and says "some people have execrable taste in the pictures they put on their walls." That's sure-fire for the Ars Repulsis! I achieve this by writing a PARABLE that lampoons the "investment interests" of my correspondents and indicates what anyone in his right mind "would do." I can tell you that one is a real winner.

I now have six fewer people with whom I correspond.

2. When we first moved to our farm, we had -- let me think back -- perhaps ten friends in this area. They gave us chickens, ducks, horses -- a whole animal population for this farm. Being at the time an unconscious practitioner of the Ars Repulsis, and a would-be humorist, I wrote a FAMOUS X-mas CARD that went on at length about the broken-down saw-bones and spavine freaks that populated this farm!

I got several polite titters. "Heh! Heh! How utterly witty!"

And we had ten less friends in this area!

3. I dimly recall that I had a friend who was taking care of her aged mother, at home, in circumstances of considerable difficulty. Ostensbily to show how sympathetic I was (but secretly in my growing mastery of the A. R.) I indicated how anybody in his right mind puts old folks in homes where they will be happy with "their own kind."

I was just thinking, the other day, I don't seem to be in touch nowadays with people who are caring for antiquated relatives.

4. One of my friends is an overworked teacher who does handicrafts (beadwork, etc.) for her pupils.

As a master of the A.R. I went on one day about how a teacher should never overwork (you need to maintain the smoothness and "charm" of your own personality and you can't do that if you are overworked -- you see how "vivacious" I am and the secret is avoid overwork). I went on to say (and this was the crowning glory) that above all one does not do handicraft work -- you make the District buy those materials!

Come to think on it, this friend has owed me a letter for the last three years!

5. One of my friends, an Irishman by heritage, listened to me carry on about St. Paddy who rid the snakes from Ireland, and his amiable foibles and superstitions. I was positively witty as I indicated how many traces of this charming naivete are still to seen in the descendants of St. Patricks contemporaries of the "Owd Sod!"

A strange look came of the face of my Irishman friend and I knew that he must be moved at my sensitivity and considerateness of "his sort."

Come to think on't, I haven't seen him since -- and since last I knew, we live in the same town, that is a bit strange.

6. One of the two Young Things who used to ride with me to Portland (to save gas) got a strange look about her face as I was going on "I don't know what so and so can be thinking of, wearing those contact lenses! They cost a hundred and fifty dollars, are easily lost, and scarify the cornea!"

"I wonder if you have seen a contact -- I must have dropped it!" said the one Young Thing quietly to the other.

For some strange reason, I now Ride the Bus to Portland, or I Drive Alone.

7. "I always deliver my lectures in class without notes, extemporaneously!" said I while visiting with another professor. "I think prepared lectures and use of notes is deadly!"

"You'll forgive me -- I must now go and write out my Extempore Lecture for my tomorrow's class!" said the professor.

Come to think on't, I haven't seen this colleague lately. I wonder if he's been ill.

Let's see -- I had a point when I began this, but I've forgotten what it was. Oh, there's Joe! I must sign off. I want to advise him about that piece of property he's in the market for. I'm sure he'll appreciate my views!


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

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