Friday, January 27, 2017

Karl the Curmudgeon Stays Up Late to Get Smarter

I'm fading fast tonight, I said. I don't think I can keep my eyes open much longer.

"You bailing out on me, Kid? What a lightweight!" said Karl. We were sitting at First Editions, our favorite literary-themed bar, at a friend's book launch. The subject was a little boring, and I'd had a long day.

I'm just worn out, I said. I had to get up early this morning, and I've been on the go all day.

"And you're tired now? It's not even 9:00," said Karl. "Guess that means I'm smarter than you."

On what planet? I asked. And how does me being tired at — I looked at my watch — 8:42 make you smarter than me?

"I just read a study that people who stay up late are more likely to be smarter than people who go to bed early."

What study is that? The What BS Nonsense Will Karl Make Up This Week study?

"No. This is a peer-reviewed study published in a scientific journal called 'Personality and Individual Differences."

Haven't you heard? We don't do science in this country anymore.

"Yeah, well, this is a study from the UK called 'Why Night Owls Are More Intelligent—'"

I notice you had to write it down.

"Shut up, Kid. Anyway, the study found that people who went to bed later tended to have higher IQs than people went to bed earlier."

Seriously? I mean, I've heard about those other studies that say people who are unorganized are intelligent or people who swear more tend to be more intelligent. But this is the first time I ever heard about sleep patterns being an indicator of intelligence.

"There was another study from the University of Madrid that said people who stayed up late tended to be wealthier too," said Karl.

Seriously? How?

"Well, they didn't actually have more money. Rather, they showed the levels of intelligence that people with prestigious jobs and higher incomes have."

How does that even work?

"It all has to do with evolution. Our pre-historic ancestors would go to bed early and get up early, usually with the sun. But if you were able to change your sleeping patterns, it meant you were able to adapt to modern life."

So, like staying up to watch Netflix while everyone else was tired out from hunting mastodons?

"Something like that. The researchers also found that children who stay up later are also likely to grow into intelligent adults."

That's assuming they were smart children to begin with.


I mean, I've met some pretty dumb kids in my day, and I don't think staying up until 3:00 a.m. on a school night is going to amp up the smart juice.

"They didn't—"

Although I did go to bed at 9:00 p.m. all throughout high school, and I could never crack a B average. But in college, I never went to bed before 1:00 a.m., and I was in the Honors College. I even went to grad school.

"But that's not—"

I think you may be on to something, Karl! I think you may have found the Fountain of Intelligence!

"Kid, that's not what the study said!"

Are you sure? What time did you go to bed last night? Is this supposed to be a temporary effect? Can I give myself a boost if I take a nap, or does that cause my new powers to take a dip?

"New powers? What are you talking about? This isn't a comic book."

What happens if I stay up all night? Does that make me Einstein smart? Ooh, would it make me rich?! Would I get rich all at once, or would the money just trickle in? Also, is it cumulative? Do I get smarter and richer each day, or does it dip when I sleep and staying up late just refills the tank?

"Dammit, Kid, now you're just playing around!"

I stared at Karl. Well, yeah, I said. I drained the rest of my beer. I wasn't so sure I wanted to go home anymore. This was fun.

So, how much later? I finally asked. How much later do the smart ones go to bed?

"Uh, it didn't say."

Seriously? A peer-reviewed scientific article, and they didn't discuss the methodology or the data? They just said 'smart people stay up late' and that was it?

"Well, uh. . ."

You didn't read it, did you?

"Yes, I did!"

You didn't read it at all, did you?

"Well," said Karl, "I read about it."

You read about it in the newspaper, didn't you? I said.

"Well. . ."

I know you did, you fraud, because I read the same article! It was the London Daily Mail. I know, because I forwarded the article to you!

"Fine! Fine, I just skimmed it. And I forgot where I read it. Are you happy? You win!" Karl waved down Kurt, our bartender, and signaled for two more beers. "Put them on his tab," he told Kurt. "He's smarter than we are."

You got that right, I said.

"I guess I've got to get up pretty early to fool you." Karl took a big drink of his new beer.

No, you'd better stay up all night.

You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Creative Professionals Don't Work for Exposure

My bank is a bit demanding. They expect me to pay my mortgage with actual money.

Ditto my utilities providers. They provide me with electricity, water, and phone service, and I give them money too.

They're not interested in alternative forms of payment. I can't take 100 gallons of rainwater to my water company, and my cable company won't let me pay my bill with two goats and a chicken.

They certainly wouldn't be interested in providing their services in return for "exposure." That is, I can't just tell my friends and family about the wonderful job my mobile phone provider is doing in exchange for unlimited data each month.

Most companies will donate money as corporate sponsorship for a charity event, sports team, or anything that gives them community and public relations exposure. But that's different from asking a creative professional to do their job for free in exchange for exposure.

Then, exposure is something you die from, because you can't afford your house anymore.

No, creative professionals need to be paid actual money in exchange for the things we do. Asking them to work for free are one of those things that are Just Not Done. It's bad form, especially when the person making the request has plenty of money to pay in the first place.

Marla Maples committed this faux pas this past week, when she asked a professional hair stylist to provide styling and makeup for her and her daughter, Tiffany Trump, in exchange for "exposure" on Inauguration Day.

Maples asked Washington hair stylist, Tricia Kelly, to provide her services in exchange for Maples mentioning Kelly on her social media accounts. They had originally agreed to a $350 fee, but Maples instead asked for the freebie. Kelly was so incensed at what she called Maples' "entitled behavior" that she shared her story with the media.

As a result, Kelly got more exposure by refusing to style their hair than if she had actually done it. Because there are 462,000 Google search results versus Maples' 31,000 Twitter followers.

It's real simple. Asking a creative professional to work for free is like farting in church: it's rude, vulgar, and people will give you the stink eye.

It may seem easy, or like anyone can do it — I'm talking about creative work, not farting — but as a professional writer, I can tell you there are plenty of educated adults who couldn't write a clear set of directions out of a tunnel if you spotted them two tries.

Similarly, I may have a digital camera, and a finger to press the little button, but that doesn't make me a photographer. I have photographer friends who work at their craft, putting in hours of work, even though their actual job only takes one-one hundredth of a second. So I know better than to compare the things I shoot on my my phone's camera to the masterpieces created on my friends' $2,000 laser-guided art box.

Creative professionals meet the true definition of the word. We're some of the best in our field, and people pay us a living wage to actually do that work. We don't work for free, because we have bills to pay and families to take care of.

That means the exposure we're offered is not worth it, because it doesn't actually get us anything useful. I've been asked by new online magazines to write free articles for the exposure.

I told one of them, "I've got tweets with bigger readership than your entire magazine. Maybe you should pay me to tweet about you."

They never responded.

Creative professionals are in a weird place. What we do seems fun. We create, design, and chronicle the things happening around us. We make up stories people love to read, or take pictures and paint paintings of things people love to see. We write songs that people love to hear.

But we don't actually produce anything, like a car manufacturer or restaurant owner, or solve problems like a plumber or a lawyer. So it's easy to think that what we do isn't real, which makes people think we should be grateful to work for free.

Except this is how we make our living. We have certain skills that people want, to solve a problem they have, and they're willing to pay for it. And we have only so many hours each week we can earn that money. So any time we work on things that don't earn money means that we can't pay our mortgages or feed our families.

Think of it this way: imagine I come to you because I needed your professional help. Whether you're a plumber, accountant, cook, or machinist, I want you to take three days off work, completely unpaid, and do that same work at my house. In exchange, I'll tweet a couple times about what a great plumber, accountant, cook, or machinist you are.

Would you do it? Would you give up three days' pay so I would tweet about you?

Of course not, because you have family to take care of and obligations to meet.

But if you're a farmer, maybe we can come to some arrangement. I have some extra goats and chickens I need to get rid of.

You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.

Friday, January 13, 2017

People From Indiana Now Officially Called "Hoosiers"

Call the neighbors and wake the kids. We're Hoosiers now!

That is, we're officially called Hoosiers by the U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO), for whatever that's worth.

According to a recent story in USA Today, Senator Joe Donnelly and former senator Dan Coats had asked the GPO to update its official style manual and change the name of people from Indiana to "Hoosiers." And since they were in the process of updating the manual anyway, they made the change, so now we're really and truly Hoosiers!

No longer do we have to put up with this "Indianians" or "Indianans" nonsense, two names we have railed against as woolly headed and dumb.

It's not that there's anything wrong with having your state name as part of your demonym, a proper noun that refers to people from a particular country, region, or state. In fact, every other state in the country is part of the same sheep-like flock. Floridians, Kentuckians, Illinoisans, and even Michiganians and Wisconsinites.

I also learned that people from Massachusetts are not called Massholes, they're called Massachusettsans. (Guess you learn something new every day.)
A pork tenderloin, our official state sandwich

If you're not from Indiana, you may not understand how important this is. We've always called ourselves Hoosiers, even if the rest of the country only thought it referred to people from Indiana University who were abused by Bobby Knight.

For over 180 years, we've used the term, even though we're not exactly sure where it comes from. We've been using it since at least 1826 when the term first appeared in area newspapers.

It gained popularity in the 1830s when Richmond poet John Finley penned "The Hoosier's Nest," which contained the lines "The emigrant is soon located, In Hoosier life initiated; Erects a cabin in the woods, Wherein he stows his household goods."

Past etymological exploration about the term have turned up stories about mispronunciations of Hussar, the term "Hoshier," surveyors' questions of "Who's here?" and the rather dark question, "Who's ear?"

That last theory was offered by our very own Hoosier Poet, James Whitcomb Riley, he of "Little Orphant Annie" fame. Riley says that back in the day, we Indiana folk were quite the vicious tavern brawlers who would gouge and bite off the noses and ears of our opponents. This was such a common occurrence, said Riley, that a settler might enter a tavern the next morning, spy a piece of humanity on the floor, poke it with his toe and ask "Whose ear?"

This story was later commemorated by former Indiana inmate and noted ear biter Mike Tyson during his 1997 title bout with Evander Holyfield, where Tyson bit off a piece of Holyfield's ear in the third round of their fight.

But bitten ears and poets aside, many of us are proud to call ourselves Hoosiers, especially now that we've got the full backing of the GPO, and can put this whole "Indianians" nonsense to rest. Donnelly and Coats even said they found the term "a little jarring to be referred to in this way," as did the rest of us.

I remember a few years ago, reading an article written by someone who claimed to be an expert on our fair state. Except she used the term "Indianian" throughout the piece, which betrayed her as a fraud, and she was promptly roasted by angry Hoosiers on Facebook and Twitter.

We Hoosiers may be mild mannered in most things, but call us the wrong name, and we can be royal bastards.

Because we're a proud people. We pioneered our state, we settled it, and we built it. Not like California and Florida, which were built by other people. We did it ourselves. We're often overlooked and forgotten — we're called a flyover state by those haughty stiff necks on the coasts — but we're a state of firsts and onlies. We can claim things that no one else in the world can.

For example, we have the only town in the entire world, Nappanee, to be spelled with exactly two of each letter: two N's, two A's, two P's and two E's.

We have the world's largest ball of paint in Alexandria, the world's largest concrete egg in Mentone, and the world's largest sycamore stump and world's largest steer, both from Kokomo.

We're also the only state that lists the Sugar Cream pie as its official state pie, and the pork tenderloin as its official state sandwich. No seriously, we had meetings about it. We voted and everything.

These are the kinds of things that make us better than other states. Massachusetts has been trying to declare the fluffer nutter sandwich — peanut butter and marshmallow fluff — their official state sandwich, but their legislature has been stuck on the issue for 10 years. A whole decade, and they can't even agree on a damn sandwich that, frankly, sounds a little nasty.

And now we're the first state to have a non-state name demonym. Not those lazy Californians, not the rude Marylanders, and certainly not those swamp Yankees, the Rhode Islanders.

Say it loud, say it proud, we're Hoosiers.

Well, not too loud and proud. Who do you think we are, New Yorkers?

You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.

Friday, January 06, 2017

You, Sir, Have a Historic List of Banned Words

They say the way you spend your first day of the new year is the way you're going to spend the entire year.

So, laying on the couch with the flu? No, thank you. But that's where I found myself for the first four days of the new year, fighting for my life, teetering at death's door.

In fact, the only thing that kept me going was that Lake Superior State University (LSSU) released their 42nd annual List of Words Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness.

So I peeled my dadbod off the sofa and staggered to my computer.

Or I nearly did, except "dadbod" is one of the banished words for 2017.

The very first list was published on January 1, 1976, by W. T. Rabe, a public relations director at LSSU, and has been a university tradition ever since.
Writing about the list has been my tradition since 2006, making this the 12th consecutive year I've covered it. This column is also partly responsible for a friend's daughter attending LSSU this coming fall, so I hope the school is appropriately grateful for my efforts.

(Like, say, a nice sweatshirt grateful.)

This is one of my favorite columns to write each year, because I get to tell people to quit using certain words because they're terrible.

The words, not people.

People are fine, for the most part. It's just that some of the words are, well, deplorable in a "bigly" way.

Surprisingly, deplorable did not make the list. But "bigly" did.

Bigly has been an actual word since around 1400. It originally meant "with great force or violently," and was used in the Le Morte d'Arthur tale in 1485. Later, it came to mean "boastfully or haughtily," when Thomas Hardy used it in his novel, Far From the Madding Crowd, in 1874.

However, "bigly" haters, if you're thinking He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named used it in the debates last year, He-Who's son, Eric, confirmed that his dad actually said "big league" during the Republican debates, and not the more archaic and well-read term.

Sort of like that time during the 2000 campaign George W. Bush and Dick Cheney called the New York Times' Adam Clymer a "major league A-hole."

Still, if we're going to kick the year off with a major league banishment, we couldn't do much worse than going after a 600-year-old word. That's some big league stuff.

But the 2016 presidential campaign got a lot of people's dander up. And I'm completely safe in saying that, because LSSU has only put the kibosh on the phrase "get your dandruff up."

This little eggcorn — a misheard rendering of a popular word or phrase — is correctly said as "get your dander up." So I can only conclude that people are tired of hearing about their friends' scalp condition. Either that, or so many people decided to correct this mis-use that it caught the Banished Words committee's attention.

You might say it was their "bĂȘte noire." Defined as a person or thing that someone really dislikes, I imagine this 19th century French phrase was just too hoity-toity for some people.

I was surprised the word even made the list, considering I had to look up what it meant. I didn't even know people were using it, let alone overusing it.

My own bĂȘte noire was the generally useless, "831," which was probably submitted by people who yell at kids to get off their lawn.

It's a texting abbreviation of the phrase "I love you" — 8 letters, 3 words, 1 meaning. Because nothing expresses the deepest of all human emotions like reducing it to a shortcut.

That's about as stupid as "bae," which was banished in 2015, although I don't think many people got that particular memo. They even skipped the town hall meeting we had about it.

Which is unfortunate, because "town hall meeting" got the chop as well, since most political candidates are too cowardly to do real town halls anymore. I haven't seen a political event where real people got to ask real questions since that episode of "West Wing."

Another presidential campaign word I won't miss is "historic." Every presidential election since I've been alive, and I was born the year before Nixon v. Humphrey, has been labeled historic, and this year was no different, except worse. Of course it's historic! If nothing else, this campaign will be discussed in history class in 100 years, assuming our civilization still exists.

Still, the committee saw fit to eliminate the word, saying historians should consider what's historic, not the contemporary media.

(I don't think the contemporary media is fit to pronounce anything historic, since they usually say "an historic," which is completely wrong. It's "a historic," I shout at my TV. "A historic! You, sir, are an moron!")

At least I did until LSSU banished "you, sir."

Because it's from a more civilized era when we settled disagreements with duels and discourse, not Internet bullying by Cheeto-fingered post-truth trolls. Which means we're probably too uncivilized to use it properly.

Fair enough. They banned "post-truth" too.

I just wish they could do something about the trolls.

Photo credit: LSSU Administration Building, where I like to think all this magic happens. Bobak Ha'Eri (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 3.0)

You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.