Friday, April 24, 2015

The Glory of the Honorary Doctorate

I've always wanted an honorary doctorate. It's not a major item on my bucket list. In fact, I don't even have a bucket list. But if I did, this wouldn't be on there.

The desire for an honorary doctorate pops up this time each year, as famous and not-so-famous people in the arts, science, and humanities are asked to give thoughtful university commencement speeches around the country.

As an added enticement, the people often have an honorary doctorate conferred upon them.

That just sounds so cool: to have an honorary doctorate conferred upon you.

It sounds so regal.

"What, this old thing? It was conferred upon me a few years ago."

They don't just slip it to you like a street corner drug deal, or mail it to you in a large enveloped marked "Do Not Bend" which your letter carrier takes as a personal insult and irons a crease into it.

There are Doctors of Literature, Humane Letters (academic distinction), Laws, Science, Fine Arts, Humanities, and Divinity. Most writers receive a Doctor of Literature, although I've heard of them receiving a Doctor of Letters degree.

Ball State University Commencement, December 2014
Still, I'm not picky. I'd take whatever a university would care to confer upon me.

(I can't stop saying it!)

Most honorary doctorates are given to people for work in their field that makes a notable contribution to society., which puts me out of the running, since writing fart jokes on the Internet is neither notable nor contributes to society.

Meanwhile, Canadian folk singer Gordon Lightfoot will receive an honorary doctorate of music from Lakehead University in Ontario this year. Other past honorary degree conferrees include Dolly Parton, Jane Pauley, Clint Eastwood, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

If you have an honorary doctorate, you can even use the title professionally, and have people call you Doctor.

Which is quite pretentious; I won't even call real professors "doctor."

I grew up in an academic family. My father, mother, and stepfather were not only the first in their family to go to college, they all got advanced degrees, and all worked at a university. My father went so far as to get a real Ph.D. in Psychological Science.

So, I've never put Ph.D.s on a pedestal or held them in exaggerated esteem. They're regular people with weird quirks and annoying personalities. (In some cases, they go above and beyond normal people.)

Many of them were our family friends, and at some dinner parties, you couldn't swing a dead cat without whacking a Ph.D. in their giant noggin.

Because of our parents' commitment to higher education, all of us kids went to college. My brother and I even earned Master's degrees in the same field as our mother, and we both work at universities ourselves. (I'm an adjunct faculty member, he's a financial aid counselor.)

I've been around college professors for so long, I refuse to call them "doctor," and only call them by their first name.

"You're not a doctor," I said to one once. "You have a doctorate."

Years ago, another guy I knew insisted I call him "Dr. Steve" (not his real name).

"Why?" I said. I had recently finished graduate school, I was out of academia, and I refused to genuflect to anyone with letters after their name. "Why do I need to call you Dr. Steve?"

"Because I have a Ph.D."

I pulled myself up to my full height, puffed out my chest, and growled, "I have a Master's degree. What do you think you should call me?"

He thought about this for a moment. "Steve will be fine."

I had actually turned down attending my own Ph.D. program just months before. I applied to several schools, was accepted to a couple, and chose none.

My then-fiancee said she was so sick of college that she didn't even want to live in a university town, and that I was free to go by myself and come find her afterward.

I decided love was more important than four years of grad school debt and a job that paid only slightly more than a high school teacher, so I said "no," and became a businessman instead.

The days are longer, I work more hours in a week than professors do all month, and I don't get summers off. But I also don't have to go to interminable departmental meetings where we talk about issues no one actually cares about using words no one understands.

Which, when you get down to it, is the best reason of all to get an honorary doctorate: all the privileges, none of the responsibilities, and the joy of telling your honorary department chair where he or she can do with their departmental meeting agenda.

Photo credit: Ball State University, Office of the President (Marked for reuse)

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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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Up Yours, Old Way of Doing Things

My friend, Jason Falls, co-hosts the 100 Proof Badass Radio Show, and his employer, Elasticity, is the show's sponsor. During the intro, Jason always says "the three founders threw off their corporate PR firm neckties, grew mustaches, bought a panda suit, and said "up yours, old way of doing things."

I always thought that was an odd thing to say, as if the old way of doing things was a single person you could talk to. And if you could, why would you say something so crude? That idea inspired me to write this story.

"Up yours, Old Way of Doing Things!" shouted the young man, throwing his arms open wide.

"Excuse me?" said Old Way of Doing Things.

"Who said that?" asked Disruption. He whirled around, looking for the voice.

"I did," said Old Way of Doing Things, stepping out of the shadows.

"Who are you?"

"I'm Old Way of Doing Things. You just called me."

"Oh, I didn't think you'd hear me," said Disruption.

"I only caught the last part. That's why I said 'excuse me.' What did you say?"

Disruption hesitated. "I, uh, I don't really—"

"Oh come on, kid. Now's not the time to be shy. You're already drawing attention to yourself with your hat and funny mustache."

"I said, 'up yours, Old Way of Doing Things." mumbled Disruption.

"What?" Old Way of Doing Things cupped his hand to his ear.

"I SAID, 'UP— uh, that is, up yours, Old Way of Doing Things,"said Disruption. "Sir."

"Interesting. Why would you say that?"

"I was declaring my independence."

"Ah, shouting your barbaric yawp, as it were."

"I don't know what that is."

"Never mind." Old Way of Doing Things studied Disruption. "Why me?"

"What?" said Disruption. This wasn't going as he'd planned. He was supposed to shout his slogan, make his grand gesture, and then unleash his Big Idea upon the world.

"Well, people rarely speak to me, let alone say 'Up yours, Old Way of Doing Things.' I've been around for a long time, and literally no one has actually ever said that before."

Disruption kicked at the ground, embarrassed. Old Way of Doing Things laughed.

"I mean, that's one of those sentences that has never been uttered before, and never will be again. There's over a million words in the English language, and no one has ever strung those seven words together in that order, let alone directed them at me."

Disruption stared at Old Way of Doing Things. "I don't follow you."

"Sorry. I'm just ruminating on the improbability of that sentence being uttered at all. It's a pretty weird thing to say."

"Hell, look at me," said Disruption, gesturing at his old-timey button down shirt and vest, bowler hat, and anchor tattoo on his forearm.

"Fair point," said Old Way of Doing Things. "So why'd you do it?"

"To declare my independence."

"Independence from what?"

Disruption thought for a minute. "Well, you."

"You didn't even know I was there a minute ago, and now you're shouting vulgarities at me."

"Well, not you, per se. I just wanted to shout to the world that I was ready to change it, to disrupt it. See, I even threw off the symbol of oppression by my corporate overlords."

"Really? What symbol is that?"

"That thing over there." Disruption waved his hand at a rumpled cloth snake on the ground. "It's my necktie."

"Shit, I haven't worn one of those in years," said Old Way of Doing Things.

"Why not?"

"I wear an ascot."


Old Way of Doing Things stared at Disruption, then snorted. "No, kid. No one wears ascots."


Old Way of Doing Things pulled a book out of his leather briefcase, and started flipping through it.

"What's that?" asked Disruption.

"It's a book," said Old Way of Doing Things.

"I've heard of those. My parents had those. I think I used them once."

"You mean read them?" asked Old Way of Doing Things.

"Yeah, read them."

"You mean you don't read books?"

"Oh sure, a long time ago."

"And you've not read any since?"

"Oh no, I still — 'read.'" Disruption made air quotes. "Blog posts, articles, white papers, e-books. I consume all kinds of content on my phone and tablet."

"You do what?"

"Consume content."

"What the hell is that? You mean you eat it?"

"No, that's what we say these days."

"We who?"

"We, uh, disruptors. We say things like 'consume content' and 'value add.'"

"That's the dumbest thing I ever heard."

"That's how people talk these days," said Disruption. "We're all about change and doing things no one else has done before."

"You mean like your handlebar mustache?" asked Old Way of Doing Things

"Yeah," said Disruption.

"And brewing your own beer at home?"

"You bet."

"And riding velocipedes, making artisan pickles, working out with kettle bells, and getting anchor tattoos on your biceps?"

"Yes, all of that."

"You know that's all been done before, right?"

"Well. . ."

"I mean, I'm the Old Way of Doing Things, but pickling and velocipedes? That's really fucking old. That's ascot-wearing old."

"But it's new and disruptive."

"No, it's ancient and dusty."

"Yeah, well, what about, well, typewriters?" Disruption said.

"You mean those things the hipsters have discovered and are collecting the shit out of? What about them?"

"Uh, never mind," said Disruption. "What about fax machines?"

"What about fax machines?"

"You use them."

"Of course. They're great. You can send a document all the way around the world. What's wrong with them?"

"It's a waste of time and paper," said Disruption. "You print out a long document, you fax it to someone else where it gets printed out, and you both store the document in a file, and stick that in a filing cabinet."

"Right. That way we always have access to it."

"Why not just put it in the cloud

"What clouds? How can you put things in clouds."

"Not clouds, you old fart. 'The Cloud.' Out there." Disruption paused, waiting for the penny to drop. Old Way of Doing Things didn't seem to get it. "You know, on the Internet? Where it's always available?"

"That doesn't seem real secure. Not like a good, old-fashioned filing cabinet."

"See, that's my point!" said Disruption. "That's 'your way' of doing things." More air quotes.

"You write a report and create as many paper copies as you have people who read it. But my way is just to share it online so no one ever prints out a paper copy. That way, you save money and help the earth."

"Really? Interesting. How much money would that save?"

"Well, it depends on how much you pay for pa—No! This is my thing. You can't be interested in it. It's not right."

"Why not?" asked Old Way of Doing Things.

"Because you're Old Way of Doing Things. I'm Disruption. You're not supposed to agree with me. We're enemies, like fire and ice, good and evil—"

"Puppy videos and kitty videos?"

"Stop that!"

Old Way of Doing Things chuckled. "Look kid, just because I'm Old Way of Doing Things doesn't mean I can't change, and it doesn't mean we can't get along. You need me, and I need you. Without me, the world would be in chaotic turmoil. Without something stable to ground the really good ideas, you'd just be change for the sake of change."

Disruption thought about this. "And I guess you need me, so you can grow and improve. Otherwise, you'd stagnate and die."

"True. You've always been around, making me change and grow. But I hang onto the good ideas too long, and I need you to shake me out of my reveries. Without change, I wouldn't have new traditions for you to screw around with. Remember, even the typewriter was new at one point, and people hated it. And if you go back far enough, handlebar mustaches, velocipedes, and kettle bells were all new too."

"The things I've been doing," said Disruption ruefully.

"Everything new is old again," said Old Way of Doing Things, philosophically.

"So, what would happen if we didn't have each other?" Disruption asked.

"I'd be like my father, We've Always Done It This Way."

"Then what would I be?"

"An intolerable asshole."

Disruption laughed. "Up yours, Old Way of Doing Things."


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Friday, April 17, 2015

Karl the Curmudgeon was a Propaganda Writer

"Did I ever tell you I was a government propaganda writer, Kid?" asked Karl.

No, you didn't, I said. What did you do, write light operas about Billy Yank and Johnny Reb?

Karl muttered something vulgar and gave me the finger. "You know you're only 20 years younger than me, right?"

Twenty-one years, I corrected. That's a whole person who can drink younger than you.

"Whatever, Grandpa. Just remember, whenever you joke about the aged, you're one of us."

I gestured at Kurt, our favorite bartender at First Editions, the literary-themed bar we frequented. Two more beers, please, Kurt. And a glass of soluble fiber for great-grandpa Karl. I turned to Karl. So tell me about your freelance propaganda work.

Kurt set the beers on the bar. He must have been out of the fiber.

"Well, it was in the 1970s and 80s. We were responsible for writing pulp fiction stories to counteract the crap Kim Jong-il and his father Kim Jong-Oops used to spread."

I think that was Kim Il-sung.

Kim Jong-un also owns many leather bound books,
and his apartment smells of rich mahogany.
"Whatever. We all wrote subversive literature that the CIA snuck into North Korea."

Why? I asked. I was never very strong on the 20th century geopolitics of developing nations.

"Boredom, I guess," said Karl.

No, why did the CIA do it?

"That's what I mean," said Karl. "In the 1970s, Kim Il-sung already knew his son, Kim Jong-il would succeed, him, so their government started planting all kinds of propaganda about him in the school books and news reports.

What did you do?

"There were 12 propaganda writers in the North Korea bureau, and they let us write whatever we wanted. One of North Korea's big claims was that Kim Jong-Il wrote 1,500 books while he was in college."

And you. . .

"Yep, we wrote 'em."


"Oh absolutely. We wrote all kinds of novels. Pulp style, mostly; they didn't have to be good. We did mysteries, romance, adventure, and even westerns. We had some professionals from the big publishing houses design these gorgeous covers. Then some defectors would translate them into native Korean, and the CIA would sneak them into the country and distribute them.

"The great part was that since the higher-ups had been saying Kim Jong-il had written all these books, the government censors had no choice but to believe them."

Kurt handed us a couple more beers without us asking. He was hooked.

"We only made them slightly subversive, not too over the top. As long as we passed the censors' smell test, we were golden. And the great part was that, even if someone dared asked Kim Jong-il if he had written a particular book, he couldn't just admit that he hadn't, or his whole story would fall apart. He figured his dad was having them all written for him."

How many did you write? I asked.

"All told, I think we wrote all 1,500 of them. Pretty soon, the books were being traded like baseball cards on the black market."

So what purpose did it serve, other than to make him look like a genius?

"Well, for one thing, no one in the government read them. So we wrote stories that contained these little philosophical messages that were always slightly sympathetic to the West. A lot of them were disguised as pro-US rhetoric. The plan was for people to begin to understand and appreciate our way of thinking as they read the stories.

Did it work? By this time, we had a small crowd gathered around us, and Kurt had been polishing the same glass for the last ten minutes.

"Not as well as we would have liked. It never fomented a rebellion, but I like to think that people began to see through some of their government's more obvious lies, like the one that Kim Jong-un learned to drive at age three, or at age nine, beat the CEO of a yacht company in a yacht race.

I don't know if I believe that, Karl, I said, finishing the last of my beer. That sounds pretty far-fetched to me.

"I don't make up those stories, Kid," he said. "The North Korean leadership did."

Not those stories, your story. You mean 12 guys wrote 1,500 books in 12 months? That's 10 books each in a single year.

"They didn't have to be masterpieces. We just churned them out, like the old pulps from the 1900s. If you stuck with the formula, and wrote for eight hours a day, you could get it done."

It all sounds pretty fishy to me.

"We also never had to go to any meetings."

Now I know you're lying!

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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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Review of The Drowsy Chaperone at Beef & Boards Theatre

The Man In The Chair. He seemed rather lonely to me.
Leave it to a musical parody to flip the switch for me to make me finally like musical theatre.

This past weekend's showing of The Drowsy Chaperone at Beef & Boards Theatre was enough to make me realize I now like the art form, and while I'm still selective, I won't pooh-pooh the genre anymore.

I had the chance to attend a Media Night performance of my new favorite musical this past Saturday, thanks to a complimentary ticket from Patricia Rettig, the Beef & Boards marketing and media relations director.

The show was actually written as a parody for Bob Martin and Janet van de Graaf's stag party, when the two got married in 1997. The fun show turned into a show at the Toronto Fringe Theatre Festival (Martin became a co-writer), ran in Toronto a few times, and then became a Broadway smash, winning five Tony awards, and being nominated for eight more.

The premise is a rather timid Broadway-loving Man In The Chair (David Schmittou) is looking for a way to chase away "the blues." So he pulls out one of his most favorite records, The Drowsy Chaperone.

As he plays the record, the characters come to life, perform on the stage, and he interrupts the performance to drop in the occasional footnote, bit of trivia, or opinion on a particular scene or actor.

The show-within-a-show musical itself, "The Drowsy Chaperone" parodies 1920s – 1940s musicals, where the antics are zany and situations are madcap. In it, Robert Martin (Timothy Ford) is going to marry theatre star Janet van de Graaf (Laura Douciere), much to the consternation of Mr. Feldzeig (B&B's own Douglas Stark) and a couple of pastry-loving gangsters (Craig Underwood and Samuel McKanney).

But when Robert "accidentally" kisses a French girl (it's actually Janet, because Robert is wearing roller skates and a blindfold. Don't ask.), the wedding is off. Meanwhile, Mr. Feldzeig is worried that the wedding will happen, so he manipulates Aldolfo ("I am. . . Aldolfo!"), the foreign lothario, into seducing Janet. Only he accidentally seduces the Chaperone.

And there's a whole thing with Mrs. Tottendale and her butler, Underling, including a spit take scene — she sprays him four or five times in a row — and even Mr. Feldzeig and Kitty. In the end, they're all going to be married, and flown off by Trix the Aviatrix ("what we would now call a 'lesbian,'" says the Man In The Chair) to Rio.

The Toledo gangsters. They've got a surprise for Mr. Feldzeig.

The jokes were terrible (a baker's dozen of pastry jokes from the gangsters), the songs were silly, and the situations were more far-fetched than a P.G. Wodehouse comedy.

As they should be.

I appreciated that the 1920s musical was actually pretty bad. It was hackneyed, predictable, and over the top. That's what made the show funny.

It also dug into some rather racial and sexist portrayals, which, if you know anything about entertainment from the first half of the 20th century, tended to be racist and sexist. Rather than shy away from it, The Drowsy Chaperone plowed ahead and recognized its theatrical roots, and the Man In The Chair was appropriately appalled.

I've often noticed that things-within-another-thing — shows, movies, books — tend to be. . . not very good. This was the case here. A few Neil Gaiman and Michael Chabon books aside, the thing-within-a-thing will always be a lesser version, and we should appreciate the play for it.

Janet van de Graaf makes a big production about not wanting to show off in big productions anymore.

These things don't need to be better. We already know it's not real, and we know it's not going to be a masterpiece itself. We're not supposed to be moved by that story, we're supposed to be moved by the story that's reacting to it.

And I was moved by the Man In The Chair. This was more than just a show for him. He needed it. It had to be fun, it had to be wacky. Everything had to work out in the end, no matter how improbable.

Because he's got his own problems, including an acrimonious, messy divorce. This one show, no matter how hackneyed we thought it was, was the only thing he had to hold on to. It made things better for him.

Everything works out in musicals, even if they don't in real life. And he needed something to work out for him.

Notice the Man In The Chair on the left, and how happy he is. This is all happening in his imagination, but we all get to see it. And that's Deb Wims, most known for A Beef & Boards Christmas, up front in the blue.

David Schmittou brought the role of the lonely-but-hopeful Man In The Chair to life for me, and his educational comments about how a musical works were what eventually changed my mind.

For example, it turns out every scene of dialog is just a connection to the next number — I never liked musicals because they interrupted the dialog, but now I realize it's the other way around. It's not a play with songs in it, it's a series of songs with some dialog to break up the music. Once I realized that, it changed how I saw the art form.

(No, seriously!)

I was also pleased to see Kendra Lynn Lucas as Trix the Aviatrix. I saw her last at A Beef & Boards Christmas 2014, where her rendition of "O Holy Night" brought the audience to its feet before she was even finished.

In the end, Schmittou's performance sold the show for me. I felt bad for the guy. He just wants to be alone with his records, hiding from whatever pains him, and just trying to chase away the blues with something he loves. A couple scenes at the end, where we finally understand what's so important about this show, were very moving.

(Also, the theatre is very dusty, and that was dust in my eyes at the end, and also cat dander. And pollen. Lots of pollen. Shut up.)

He wants to experience The Moment, and can't stand it when something ruins it. He lives for The Moment — we all live for those perfect moments and moods — and when something ruins that moment — ringing telephones, power outages, interrupting supers  — it's gone forever.

And, because all musicals work out in the end, the Man In The Chair ends up having what may be the best moment of his life.

Or a hallucinatory stroke. I don't like to pigeonhole.

You can see The Drowsy Chaperone — my now-favorite Beef & Boards musical — until May 10. Tickets range from $40 - $65, and include a dinner buffet. For more information, visit the Beef & Boards website.

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, April 10, 2015

A Letter From My Facebook Feed

Dear Erik,

I'm so angry right now! I can't believe what's happening right now with RFRA, and ISIS! And President Obama and Iran! And Benghazi! And RFRA again! And who the hell serves pizza at a wedding anyway?!

And now I'm happy because here's a video of kitties playing together! Can't you just die from all the cuteness?

Also, I'm pumped about my new CrossFit exercise program. I'm doing battle rope, dead lifts, and these things called burpees. (Of course, I've got that one friend who makes predictable jokes about burpees.)

Check out this picture of the sunset. Have you seen such a beautiful sunset?

Ooh, look another kitty video! It's so cute and fluffy!

Watch this video of this person doing something with another person. WHAT HAPPENS NEXT WILL BLOW YOUR MIND!

It's a good thing I'm on that exercise program, because here's what I'm eating for lunch! It's a pork tenderloin. No, it's a hamburger. No wait, it's a kale smoothie I made to show everyone how healthy I am. I'd tell you how utterly delicious it is, but we all know I'd rather eat that tenderloin.

Can you believe this crap (or good fortune) with the whole Iran nuclear deal?! I'm so angry (or optimistic), because this is such an idiotic (or important) negotiation, and Obama just needs to—

Another kitty video! The cutes, they give me feels!

Check out this picture of the sunset. Have you seen such a beautiful sunset?

I'm so blessed to have such a happy and wonderful family. I don't know what I would do without Facebook to tell you my family is better than yours.

Please send your thoughts and prayers about my sick relative or friend. For my agnostic or spiritual-not-religious friends, please send thoughts, positive energies, and pleas to the universe.

This man talked to a woman. What happened next will amaze you.

Asking for prayers seems to have caused a 30-foot-long debate about the existence of God and whether crystals and healing stones will also work, and did you try a chakra cleanse with a kale smoothie?

Check out this picture of the sunset. Have you seen such a beautiful sunset?

Here's a slideshow of 117 things you've been doing wrong your entire life. Number 78 will blow your mind, but it will take you 20 minutes to get there. I didn't know that because I only forward these things, I don't actually read them.

Here's the 218th amazing picture of my amazing children who are, like, so totally amazing. I love my amazing children, and I love being a parent. It's amazing. You should be amazed.

Speaking of Obama, it's almost election season. It seems like yesterday when we were yelling about Obama and Mitt Romney, and here we are two years later, getting ready to do it all again.


Did you see Rand Paul on the Today Show? He totally flew off the handle/schooled that reporter. I can't be sure. No one is sure.

Blah blah a-certain-someone-did-something-terrible-but-I-won't-say-anything-about-it-because-I'm-above-that-and-don't-need-to-stoop-to-other-people's-levels-of-passive-aggressiveness blah.

Check out this picture of the sunset. Have you seen such a beautiful sunset?

Ooh, speaking of crazy, what's the deal with Ted Cruz's hypocrisy? In 2012, he griped about Obama's father not being from here, but he's Canadian-born with a Cuban father, and he says it doesn't matter where his father was from.

You want hypocrisy? Hillary Clinton never even used an official government email address, she just had everything sent to her private email, I saw on some fringe website that my friend's cousin's paranoid best friend shared that she deleted all her emails about Benghazi, and then had the server room burned to the ground.

And now an angry rant from your friend who kills all mature discussions by calling people idiots and saying "wake up, sheeple!" He says everyone is stupid, because they haven't researched this issue like he has, and people keep unfriending him because they can't handle his truth, and he really could make something of himself if his mom wasn't on his back all the time about moving out, but he can't find a new job because his manager Kevin, who's like 16 years younger than him, is always trying to get him fired.


My favorite team won last night. Everyone admire my good fortune that comes from supporting this team. The fact that your team lost is a direct reflection on your poor life choices. They would have won if you had been a better person. You deserve all ridicule and scorn befitting a social leper.


Your Facebook Feed

P.S. Check out this video of kitties playing with puppies and a monkey! YOU WON'T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!

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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Monday, April 06, 2015

Entries sought for upcoming Goats Gone Wild exhibit (PRESS RELEASE)

From my friend Kendal Miller, the executive director of the Switzerland County Tourism office. You can learn more about Fred the White Goat on a blog post I wrote for

(VEVAY, Ind.)—The Switzerland County Visitors Center announces a call for entries for their second Goats Gone Wild exhibition. Open to youths and adults, the event will open from 6-9 p.m. on July 3 during Vevay’s First Friday. The art show is just one of the activities that will kick-off the inaugural “Fred the Goat Festival” to be held on Saturday, July 11 on Liberty Street in Vevay.

“Fred” was a white goat that once roamed Vevay Hill in Switzerland County, Indiana, for many years. Residents were often seen searching the hillside for Fred in hopes of taking photographs to upload to his Facebook page. After his death in late 2013, Fred is now immortalized by a white concrete statue placed in his honor. “Fred the Vevay Hill Goat Festival” is a tribute to his memory.

Goats Gone Wild participants are invited to get creative by entering artwork, a craft, or anything of the written word such as a story or poem about “Fred, the Vevay Hill Goat” or goats in general. Prizes will be awarded in two categories: Arts & Crafts and Literary, with a youth and adult winner in both. Guidelines are available at the Visitors Center located at 128 West Main Street in Vevay.

Winners will receive a $50 gift certificate to a local business of the winners' choosing in the adult category and a $25 gift certificate in the youth category. The youth category is for ages 14 and under. Original entries that best incorporate the Goats Gone Wild theme will be selected the winners. Entries that were submitted in last year's contest will not be accepted.

Entries will be accepted at the Visitors Center on Monday, June 29 through Wednesday, July 1 from 10am-5pm. Winners will be announced at 5:30 p.m. on July 3. Voting for a People’s Choice award will take place on July 3 from 6-8 p.m. with one winner being announced around 8:30 p.m.

All work must remain on display at the Center through Monday, July 27. Work can be for sale but will not be available until after the close of the exhibit.

Vevay’s First Friday is presented by Vevay Main Street with funding from Switzerland County Tourism. The event features year-around late night shopping, dining, art openings, store specials, live entertainment and free carriage rides around downtown Vevay.

Information on Switzerland County businesses, lodging and tourist activities can be found at or by calling (812) 427-3237. Switzerland County Tourism-Vevay, IN, is on Facebook and Twitter.


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Friday, April 03, 2015

Destroy Alien Portals for Fun, Exercise

I've been playing a game on my phone called Ingress.

That is, the game is called Ingress. I don't call my phone anything.

But I've been playing this game rather frequently. Fervently, you might say.

(Editor: Obsessed. The word you're looking for is "obsessed.")

(Erik: Not obsessed. I'm just a fan.)

(Editor: You made me play it. You said you would hide naughty typos in your columns if I didn't start playing.)

Ingress is like virtual geocaching. Geocaching is where you travel to a particular set of GPS coordinates, and look for a waterproof container left by another geocacher. Find the item inside, report it on your mobile app, and move on to your next cache.

Ingress is similar, only you don't have to search for a physical object. The "object" you interact with is called a portal, and it exists only on your phone. If you're within 35 meters of the portal, you can interact with it. If you're not, you can't.

The game is built on Google Maps (Google owns it, in fact). Wherever you go in the real world, your phone's GPS keeps track of you, and the game portals appear on your phone. When you reach a portal, you "hack" it, and the portal gives you certain items you need to play the game. Need more items, hack more portals.

The game premise is that these portals emit some kind of mysterious energy called Exotic Matter, or XM. They were planted by an unknown phenomenon — or alien race. Spooky! — called the Shapers.

The portals are most commonly found in front of public art, government buildings, and places of worship. Businesses are now getting portals as well. The Shapers were thoughtful enough not to put portals in front of private residences and schools.

You join one of two teams, the Enlightenment or the Resistance. The Enlightenment (the green team) seeks to control the portals and harness the energy to uplift humanity, and bring about our next stage of evolution. They're the rules followers, the minivan drivers, the people who believe in blind obedience and unwavering loyalty.

(Editor: That's not what we believe at all. We're optimistic about humanity, and seek to bring about positive change in all of us.)

(Erik: To-may-to, to-mah-to.)

(Editor: And stop making fun of my minivan!)

My team, the Resistance (the blue team), are the rebels, the "you're not the boss of me" team. We wear the leather jackets, and have the gnarly tattoos — metaphorically speaking. My wife won't let me get a tattoo.

We question authority, we believe in freedom. We believe the Enlightenment will withhold XM from people who really need it, unless you agree to toe the party line, attend their church, or meet unreasonable deadlines.

(Editor: They're not unreasonable deadlines. They're the same deadlines you've had for the last almost-20 years.)

(Erik: I don't follow you.)

(Editor: Also, the Enlightenment isn't going to make anyone do anything, especially go to their church.)

The teams refer to themselves as the Smurfs and Frogs. I'm on the Blue team, because Smurfs are lovable and cute. Frogs are slimy, have sharp teeth, and ooze poison.

(Editor: Frogs do not have teeth and they do not ooze poison.)

(Erik: Poison arrow frogs in South America do.)

(Editor: *sigh* They're not green, they're blue.)

To play the game, you approach a portal, and if your team controls it, you can hack it, retrieve some items, and move on to the next portal. If the other team controls it, you can hack it or destroy all the resonators, which turns it neutral, and then you place your own resonators, which means your team controls it.

At least until someone from the other team comes along, destroys your resonators, and places their own again.

It can go back and forth several times a day. I have seen entire fields of portals switch portals back and forth four times in a single hour. Other portals can go untouched for a few months (you get a special badge if you can manage that). You learn to let go and not swear revenge on opposing players who blow up your favorite portals.

(Editor: Good, does this mean I can go back to that Starbucks now?)

(Erik: No! I was three days away from my badge! You're in a time out.)

The game also encourages exercise, because nearly all of the portals are placed on walkable paths, such as along streets and roads. Nothing is on a highway or a dangerous area. So it's a great way to get some exercise, keep track of your distance, and blow the crap out of the other team's portals.

All in all, it's a fun game that combines the convenience of your mobile phone with the competition of a video game, and gets you outside. And it even has a social aspect where you can make new friends.

(Editor: Or return the calls of your old ones.)

(Erik: Three days! I had three freaking days to go!)

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