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On the 2019 Word of the Year: They

(image via wikimedia)

According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the word they is 2019’s Word of the Year.  At first glance, they might seem like a stupid choice.  The word they has been around for generations as a third-person plural pronoun.  Yet, curiosity over the word they has skyrocketed this year, with a 300% increase in hits on 2019 the dictionary’s website.

One reason for the Interest In they is that they is now considered a gender-neutral pronoun.  People who don’t want to be labeled as he or she can choose they as their pronoun of choice.  I’ll admit, I don’t get the whole nonbinary or gender neutral thing, so I won’t judge that, but I have a strong opinion about the word they.  I don’t think they should be messed with, and here’s why.

It’s pretty simple.  They is a commonly-used plural pronoun and shouldn’t be used in the singular form because it messes up subject-verb agreement.  All my life I was taught to use present-tense verb forms in sentences like “They are going to the movie.”

If people use they as a singular pronoun, then a writer/speaker referring to a person who identifies as gender-neutral will write/speak “They is going to the movie.”

That’s going to lead to a lot of confusion, especially among English teachers.  Grammar NAZIs will flip out too.  Regular NAZIs don’t have a high tolerance for people who claim to be gender-neutral (I don’t know any regular NAZIs, so I’m just speculating about that), but the grammar NAZIs (who are often very tolerant about alternative lifestyles) will also resent the change in language.

Merriam-Webster should know this.  When I was a kid, dictionaries reluctantly accepted any changes in the English Language.  We tried to make up words and rule changes all the time, and the dictionary (and our teachers) would never go along with it.  If we had tried to change the meaning of they, we would have been held back a grade, humiliated in front of our peers, and beaten up after school.

I’m not saying we should go back to that.  I don’t wish that on anybody.  But now the dictionary seems to be accepting change without thinking about the consequences.

Subject-verb agreement is the foundation of sentence structure in the English.  If you mess with it, everything else collapses.  Language fractures, people can’t communicate, and then people start genociding each other (Yeah, genocide probably isn’t a verb, but you know what I mean. If a person who claims to be gender-neutral can make they singular, then I can turn genocide into a verb).

The most disappointing part of this is that the dictionary should know better.  Young people have always had stupid ideas, many of which were worse than using they as a singular pronoun.  Young people are supposed to have new (and usually stupid) ideas.  The older generations are then supposed to postpone the implementation of those bad ideas until the young people get old  enough to realize how stupid their old ideas were.

In this case, Merriam-Webster has abdicated its responsibility as the wise (but cranky) mentor.  Instead, the dictionary has encouraged confusion and future madness by enabling youngsters to use they as a singular pronoun.

This conflict isn’t even necessary.  Most people don’t care if somebody identifies as gender-neutral.  There are countless potential letter combinations that could be used as a gender neutral pronoun, preferably one that hasn’t already been established as a third-person plural pronoun, like they has been.  There is enough confusion in this world already.

And we don’t need dictionaries to make things worse.

Political Book Review: A Generation of Sociopaths by Bruce Cannon Gibney

I don’t read many political books anymore, for reasons I’ll explain later.  I also don’t finish many books that I read, for reasons that I’ve explained in other blog posts.  Despite my current reading habits, however, I read most of A Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America by Bruce Cannon Gibney.

I initially noticed this book because of the author’s name, Bruce Cannon Gibney.  Cannon?  The guy’s middle name is Cannon?  For a long time. I thought Brad Thor was the coolest author name a guy could come up with.  Then I saw Bruce Cannon Gibney.

Now I’m wondering, how can a guy get lucky enough to have a middle name like Cannon?  I’d love a middle name like Cannon.  Even Brad Thor is probably jealous of the middle name Cannon.

If Brad Thor had a cool middle name, you know he’d use it on is book covers.  Cannon is such a cool name, though, that it needs something less impressive like Gibney to bring the guy back down to earth.  With a last name like Gibney (my last name isn’t impressive either, so I have no room to mock), Bruce is lucky his parents middle named him Cannon.

I admit, I’m jealous of Bruce Cannon Gibney’s middle name, and I’m not an envious person.

Oh yeah, I have a book review here too.

5 Popular Novels That Had Unnecessary Sequels

For decades, this book had no sequel, and everybody was better off for it.

Sequels have a bad reputation, and they probably deserve it.  Even though almost everybody agrees there are too many sequels, especially for movies, sequels keep getting made, and they often keep making money.  Maybe the problem isn’t so bad in literature, but there are still some examples of unnecessary sequels to popular books.

To be fair, sequels not written by the original author don’t count.  It’s not fair to blame Margaret Mitchell for a bad sequel to Gone with the Wind.  It’s not fair to blame Mario Puzo for a bad sequel to The Godfather.  It’s really not fair to blame Truman Capote for a bad sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird (but I’ll get to that later).

Having established that, here are five great (or popular) novels that have unnecessary sequels:

Popular Novel-The Shining by Stephen King

Unnecessary Sequel- Dr. Sleep by Stephen King

Stephen King fans probably disagree with me about this, but they’re more biased than I am because they’re Stephen King fans and I’m just a guy who used to read Stephen King books.  I liked The Shining a lot, but decades later I had no interest in Dr. Sleep.  Looking back, The Shining might not even be as good as I remembered it.  Some of the writing in The Shining was pretty bad, but I didn’t recognize bad writing back then when I first read it.

When I finished reading The Shining, I wanted more Stephen King, and I got more Stephen King with The Stand.  Then I got even more Stephen King with It, and I stopped reading Stephen King.

Even at my peak of Stephen King interest,  I didn’t care about what happened to the kid at the end of The Shining.  I barely even remember the kid’s name.  I’m not saying Dr. Sleep is a lousy book (I haven’t read it).  I’m just saying that nobody ever clamored for a sequel, and that makes the sequel unnecessary.

Popular Novel- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Unnecessary Sequel- Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Go Set a Watchman is fairly despised because it was promoted as a sequel or companion novel when it was really just a rough draft that was stashed away in an attic.  I don’t blame the book publishers for selling it as a sequel.  I blame book buyers for falling for the trick.  I’m as gullible as a guy can be, and even I knew this sequel was a scam.

Almost everybody knew Go Set a Watchman was a scam, and it still sold a lot of copies.  If the publishing companies are open about how they rip off the public and the public still falls for it, the book publishers will never stop.

Go Set a Watchman might also validate those who believe that Truman Capote actually wrote To Kill a Mockingbird.  I used to joke about that just to tick people off, (I’m not like that anymore), but now I wonder.  The quality of writing in the two manuscripts is so different that it’s almost like they were written by… two… different… people.  Maybe I shouldn’t even count Go Set a Watchman as a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird, but the publishers put Harper Lee’s name on the cover of both books, so I had no choice..

Popular Novel- Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

Unnecessary Sequel- The Streets of Laredo by Larry McMurtry

I’ll admit, it’s been decades since I’ve read The Streets of Laredo.  I don’t remember much because I tried to forget it as soon as I was done.  As far as I’m concerned, The Streets of Laredo never happened.  It was never written.  It was never alive for me.

The Streets of Laredo isn’t just an unnecessary sequel; it’s a bad sequel, and it’s a bad sequel for several reasons.  It takes beloved characters from Lonesome Dove and ruins them.  In some ways, The Streets of Laredo make the events in Lonesome Dove irrelevant.  I actually got angry at The Streets of Laredo because of the way the characters were treated.

Some might say that it’s a sign of a great author that readers get mad when the characters get mistreated.  Yes, Lonesome Dove was a great novel that treated its characters, even when horrible stuff happened to them, with respect.  The Streets of Laredo was downright disrespectful.  And it was unnecessary.

Popular Novel- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

Unnecessary Sequel- Tom Sawyer, Detective by Mark Twain

I’m a fan of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.  It isn’t my favorite book ever, but I respect the character.  Tom Sawyer hated school.  He protected Becky.  He spoke up for an innocent man even when it put his own life in danger.  He figured out a way to get other kids paint the fence for him.

Tom Sawyer, Detective might be okay, but nobody asked for it.  I read the first few pages, and it was okay, but I didn’t finish it.  Mark Twain wrote Tom Sawyer, Detective decades after Tom Sawyer, and maybe he wanted to recapture former glory or maybe he needed a quick bestseller.

Or maybe Mark Twain was ahead of his time with Tom Sawyer, Detective and nobody has recognized that because nobody read the book.  That would have been frustrating, to have written a detective novel ahead of its time, but so few people read it that it was never even discovered in the time it was meant for.  Maybe I’ll try reading it again, just to make sure it wasn’t (or was) ahead of its time.

Popular Novel- Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Unnecessary Sequel- Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout

Olive Kitteridge won a Pulitzer Prize in 2008, so it must be a great novel, but I’m not sure because I’ve never read it because I didn’t care who Olive Kitteridge was/is.  I’ve never even heard anyone talk about Olive Kitteridge.

It’s not the only recent (from my point of view) Pulitzer that doesn’t get talked about.  I’ve never seen anybody read Tinkers either or Less.  Readers, however, passionately argued about A Visit from the Goon Squad.  Readers also argued about The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, and then the author made it worse by getting accused of sexually harassing women (though he MIGHT just be an awkward guy who doesn’t know how to interact with females).

In its favor, Olive Kitteridge won an Emmy in 2015, but it was for Limited Series, so the interest in Olive Kitteridge is limited (limited is their word, not mine!)

If Cormac McCarthy wrote a sequel to The Road, I’d understand it.  I’d be skeptical, but I’d understand it.  Readers love The Road.  People still read The RoadThe Road is still relevant.  But I don’t want a sequel for The Road either.  If there’s no sequel for The Road, then a sequel for Olive Kitteridge is also unnecessary.

*****

But enough about me!  What do you think?  I’m sure there are a bunch of popular novels that I missed.  Maybe you even disagree with some of my choices.  Either way, leave a comment below!

Book Title Review: On Masturbation by Mark Twain

Don’t ask what he’s doing. (image via wikimedia)

On Masturbation might not be the best title for a book. A book title is supposed to make a potential reader want to start turning pages, but few topics turn off readers more than masturbation.  I’m not going to read a book called On Masturbation, no matter who wrote it.  I’ll read anything else by Mark Twain.  I’ll even read Tom Sawyer Detective if I have to.  But I refuse to read a book called On Masturbation.

On Masturbation was originally a speech called “Some Thoughts on the Science of Onanism.” That might be a better title, except the word Onanism is a reference to a Biblical figure named Onan, and a lot of people don’t read the Bible anymore, so too many potential readers didn’t know what Twain was talking about.

In case you didn’t know (I didn’t know either), Onan was a masturbator whom God struck down.  This demonstrates how times have changed.  When I was a kid, the story was a guy would go blind if he gratified himself too much or we’d grow hair on the palm of our hand (or both).  Nobody told us we’d be struck down by God.

The good news for On Masturbation is that schools supposedly are teaching self-gratification in their curriculum now, even in elementary schools.  That means if The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn gets banned from schools, it could easily be replaced by On Masturbation.  Teachers could get their sex education and classic American literature done at the same time.

Some people see masturbation as a dirty word.  I don’t know; it’s kind of long for a dirty word.  You don’t see many vulgar words whose roots are three-syllables long.  Masturbation might be considered the technical word, kind of like how fornicate is the technical word for fuck or defecate is the technical word for shit.  There’s no monosyllabic word for masturbate (why is the word monosyllabic five syllables long?).  Masturbate has a bunch of compound word euphemisms that end with off, like jack off, beat off, or whack off.  It’s weird that so many euphemisms for masturbate are compound words when masturbation requires only one person.

I’m sure On Masturbation is a funny book.  Supposedly it was one heck of a speech as well.  It’s too bad that YouTube didn’t exist back in the 1800s because Mark Twain talking about onanism was probably awesome.  Even so, I don’t want to carry that speech around with me, and I don’t want to be seen reading it, especially if the word MASTURBATION is in giant letters.

Masturbation might seem like a tasteless topic, but at least Twain gave his Onanism speech in Paris.  The French are supposed to be a bunch of perverts, but I don’t know if that was true in the 1800s.  If you’re going to give a speech about masturbation, tell it to a bunch of perverts in France.  Don’t talk about masturbation to a bunch of school kids.

When I was a kid, if a teacher had talked about masturbation, the teacher would have disappeared and nobody would have asked questions.  You just didn’t talk to kids about that.  Even creepy guys in white vans didn’t talk about masturbation to kids, and now schools are supposed to teach it.  If teachers start promoting masturbation, don’t be surprised if more teachers start driving white vans.

Even if schools teach masturbation, I don’t want to be seen reading a book called On Masturbation.  Guys don’t want to talk about masturbation, even if it’s called onanism.  Maybe schools should just refer to masturbation as onanism.  Then teachers could teach it and kids wouldn’t even know what they’re talking about.  That would make everybody happy, the perverts who want to teach onanism to kids and the parents who are horrified that perverts are teaching onanism to kids.  The only people who wouldn’t be happy would be the kids at school, and their opinions won’t matter until they’re 18.

And by then they’ve usually figured out onanism on their own.

And then Mark Twain’s book might make more sense to them.

But I still don’t like the title.

5 Reasons Why National Novel Writing Month is a Bad Idea

(image via wikimedia)

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for a bunch of writers and bloggers.  Despite being a writer and a blogger, I have never been a fan of National Novel Writing Month.  One of my first blog posts ever denounced National Novel Writing Month as National Bad Writing Month, and over the years I haven’t changed my mind, even though I’ve changed my mind about a lot of things since then.

Over the last few years, I have changed my mind about football.  I have changed my mind about conspiracy theories.  I have even changed a lot of my political opinions.  But I haven’t changed my mind about National Novel Writing Month

Here are five reasons why I think NaNoWriMo is a bad idea:

  1. National Novel Writing Month has a crappy acronym.

NaNoWriMo is a really stupid-looking acronym.  I understand why it has to be like that.  It’s a pain to keep writing National Novel Writing Month repeatedly, so we bloggers use the acronym NaNoWrMo, which is kind of possible to pronounce if you really want to.

The acronym NNWM isn’t really an option because it’s it’s more difficult to say than National Novel Writing Month.  NNWM also sounds like a controversial 1980s rap group, and that’s the kind of controversy that most bloggers don’t want.  Plus, nobody likes vowel-free acronyms.  It’s a sign of no creativity, and an acronym for writers should sound creative.

2.  NaNoWriMo leads to bad writing.

A 60,000 word novel in a month is a lot, especially if you have a full-time job and a family.  It’s tough for full-time professional writers to get to 60,000 words in a month.  James Patterson hires coauthors” to write for him, and they still don’t hit 60,000 words and the novels still suck.  60,000 words is an unreasonable goal, and unreasonable goals lead to bad writing.

  1. NaNoWriMo is an internet challenge.

I’m not a fan of internet challenges because I don’t like the internet telling me what do.  It’s bad enough that the internet monitors where I go and what I read and what sites I visit.  It’s also bad that the internet tries to predict my future actions by giving me recommendations.  Now the internet is challenging us to do stuff.  When the internet challenges me to do something, I tell the internet to take a hike.

  1. NaNoWriMo is a long internet challenge.

Most internet challenges are short.  Stuff like The Ice Bucket Challenge a few years ago takes only a few seconds.  NaNoWriMo takes a whole month.  That’s too long for an internet challenge.  I’m against internet challenges, but if I ever participate in one, it will be a short challenge.  Maybe I’d write a six-word story on a napkin.  Six-word stories can be challenging, but it won’t take as long as a 60,000 word novel.  If I fail the challenge, I can fail in a few minutes.  It won’t take me a month to fail.  I pride myself on my efficiency; I’d rather fail at something quickly than slowly.

  1. NaNoWriMo causes stress.

Writers get stressed out over NaNoWriMo.  They get stressed out if they fall behind in the word count.  They get frustrated at the quality of their writing.  Sometimes I think the powers-that-be want us to be stressed out.  If we’re stressed out, we can’t think clearly, and when we can’t think clearly, the powers-that-be can do what they want without the rest of us noticing.  The powers-that-be might be manipulating us with the fake stress of NaNoWriMo, and I choose to keep my writing stress-free.

I don’t want to come across as a whiner about NaNoWriMo, so here are some alternative challenges to NaNoWriMo.  Like I said, I’m not a fan of challenges, but if you’re going to do one, here are some suggestions!

  1. The Spend a Month Revising and Editing your Best Blog Post Challenge!
  2. The Write a Novel in the next Ten Years Contest!
  3. The Help a Struggling Indie Author by Buying A Book Challenge!!
  4. The Limit Yourself to Reading Only Three Books per Author Challenge!!
  5. The One-Star Review For Bestselling Books (but logically explain why it’s bad without being mean) Campaign-

+++++

Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t look down upon writers who participate in NaNoWriMo.  It takes commitment, and I respect that.  But I still think National Novel Writing Month is a bad idea.

What do you think?  What other factors make NaNoWriMo a bad idea?  If you disagree, why do you think NaNoWriMo is a good idea?

5 Ways That Blogging Is Awesome!!!!!!!!!!

(image via wikimedia)

It’s easy for bloggers to be negative sometimes.   In this age of social media, video creators on YouTube or Instagram get a lot more attention than writers who merely blog.  Independent bloggers like us can put a lot of time into out writing, but our audience reach can be more limited than that of other platforms.

Face it, a lot of people would rather watch videos or listen to podcasts than read blogs.  It can be frustrating. But I don’t like to be negative for very long.  Blogging is still awesome, so awesome that I don’t mind using a few exclamation points to express it!!!!!!  I would ALL CAP MY ENTHUSIASM, but I don’t want to be too obnoxious.

Here are five reasons why blogging is awesome (just in case you didn’t already know).

  1. Blogging is physically easy.

Writing used to be a physical chore.  Writers had to physically hold a pencil or a pen and physically write out each word on a sheet of paper.  Even worse, back in the really old days, writers had to dip quills into ink and then they got beaten by monks if they made a mistake.

I’m not sure that ever really happened because there’s no ancient video footage of monks beating writers who made mistakes.  If there’s no video footage of an event, I’m skeptical that it ever happened.  Then again, back in the 1970s I saw nuns rap student knuckles with rulers, so if  nuns in the 1970s were doing that, I’m pretty sure in the really old days monks did much worse to young writers who made errors on their parchments.  After all, nothing inspires perfection like the threat of mild violence.

Even when writers didn’t have to worry about hyper-critical monks and nuns, using a typewriter could be frustrating.  If you weren’t a good typist, you spent more time making corrections than actually writing.  The most frustrating weekend I ever had was during my senior year in high school when I had to type out my own term paper for English class.  An entire Saturday was spent making corrections with white-out or retyping pages altogether.  My mom, who typed 70 words a minute, said it taught me a valuable lesson, to always have a few spare bucks lying around to pay somebody to type my essays in college.

Blogging now with a computer/tablet is much easier than using a typewriter, pencil, or quill, and we don’t get beaten by monks when we make mistakes.

  1. Bloggers can get an instant audience.

20 years ago, if I wanted an audience, I had to join a writer’s group, and even then, I had to wait until the next meeting (which could have been a week, two weeks, or even a month away, depending on the group) before I received any feedback for my writing.

Now, writers can get instant feedback. With blogs, Twitters, Instagrams, ebooks, and much more, writers have a bunch of choices of how they want to write.  As long as writers are patient, we can eventually get an audience.

To be honest, when I started Dysfunctional Literacy, I didn’t get any feedback for about six months, but that was probably because I didn’t deserve any feedback.  When I received my first “You suck!” comment, I knew I was finally doing something right.  When a writer hasn’t gotten any feedback for 20 years, “You suck!” is exhilarating.

      3.  We bloggers can write what we want.

Nobody can tell us what to write.  If I want to write a 60-episode blog serial about a crazy ex-girlfriend (who had a lot of cool qualities), then I can write a 60-episode blog serial about a crazy ex-girlfriend.  If I want to write a blog post about Scott Baio appearing in my dreams, I can do that too.  I can even write about the repercussions of trying to talk like Donald Trump.

No editor can tell me that I can’t write what I want.  No outrage mob can influence a spineless editor who has control over what I write.  This blog is mine.  I am my own editor.  Being my own editor might be like a lawyer who represents himself/herself, but I don’t care.  This blog is mine and mine only.  And that’s awesome!!!

      4. Bloggers can be anonymous.

Some people complain about anonymity on the internet and how it allows people (usually trolls) to misbehave without any real repercussion.  To me, anonymity is essential because it keeps me from getting fired.  Most people who get fired for online writing lose their jobs for posting/writing/tweeting comments that are on the “wrong” side of political issues or hot topics of the day.

The getting fired issue seems to be getting worse too.  Years ago, people would get fired for stupid stuff they wrote that day or the day before.  Now people are getting in trouble for stuff they wrote over ten years ago.  Even worse, there are internet researchers out there who gleefully look up old stuff and try to get other people fired.  In an age of getting fired for internet writing, it’s great to be anonymous.

Bloggers don’t have to show their faces either.  Sometimes it’s good if writers don’t show themselves.  Words by themselves leave a lot for the imagination, and readers can be disappointed when an interesting writer looks like a boring, everyday schmuck.  Plus, if you’re an anonymous writer, nobody bothers you in public.  When you crave attention, you can write.  When you want to be left alone, you don’t write.

If you like anonymity, blogging is the best.

     5.  Bloggers don’t have to deal with people.

Even though a lot of writers are borderline anti-social, we sometimes have to deal with others to get published.  Before the internet, if we wanted to get our work out to the public, we had to get past literary agents and publishers.  It was frustrating to writers.  Even if we thought we had something publishable, too much was out of the writer’s control.  Unless we had connections or were willing to network to make those connections, we were most likely never going to be published.

Now, the anti-social author doesn’t have to deal with anybody.  Bloggers can put out their own stuff without anybody else’s approval.  We don’t need connections.  We don’t need to schmooze anybody.  I’ve published my own ebooks on Amazon, and I’ve never had to talk to anybody during the entire process.  True, my ebook sales aren’t as good as I want them to be, but that’s okay because I didn’t have to talk to any literary agents or publishers to get them out there.  That has to count for something.

*****

What do you think?  Why are you glad that you are a blogger right now?  If you aren’t a blogger, have you ever had to use a typewriter?  Have you ever been beaten by a monk/nun for making a mistake while writing?  Have you been fired for something you wrote?  Has anybody ever told you that “You suck!” on your blog (or other writing format of choice)?

4 Reasons to Stop Watching NFL Football (and other professional sports too)

(image via wikimedia)

I used to watch a lot of televised sports.  It started when I was a teenager with no athletic ability and slightly below average social skills.  I was a borderline social outcast until I started watching and talking about football.  Once I could talk sports, I could fit in with just about every group at school (I could already fit in with the groups like burnouts, nerds, and band kids who didn’t talk sports).

I didn’t even have to play sports.  I simply demonstrated my passion for the local team and was more knowledgeable than almost anybody else (without being obnoxious).  I learned that if you were a nerd who could talk about sports, you could talk to just about anybody.

Since then, a lot of my social life has been built around watching sports with friends and family.  I have even written a blog post called 6 Reasons Why Football is the Best Sport Ever  .

Despite my love of sports, I have decided to quit watching.  It’s not just because I’m older and don’t care about fitting in anymore, and now that I think about it, I probably should have stopped watching sports decades ago.  Here’s why:

  1. Watching sports wastes a lot of time.

You can save a lot of time by not watching sports.  You don’t need to watch the games live in their entirety anymore.  There are a bunch of highlight channels on the internet and shortened games (with commercials and time between plays cut out).  You can still be aware of everything that happened without wasting hours of your evenings and weekends.  Watching sports can take up a lot of time, especially if you don’t do anything else while you’re watching.  Most games take up at least three hours and sometimes go even longer.

You can devote your energy for more productive things, especially today with the internet.  If you used that 2-3 hours to learn new skills or spend time with friends/family in a productive way, that extra time could change your life in a positive way.  If you watch football to avoid spending time with your family, then… maybe that’s a different issue.

  1. You can focus on more stuff that matters.

With sports, you get emotionally connected to stuff that isn’t important. It doesn’t really matter who wins a game, yet sports fans get emotionally connected, yelling, getting dressed up, getting into fights. Some fans even get depressed when their team loses.

I’ve felt that before.  It’s easy to get sucked into the emotion of a game.  But that devotion to sports, as fun as it can occasionally be, keeps us from the really important stuff in our lives.

When I’m on my death bed (I don’t think about this much, I promise), I’m not going to regret watching more football games; I’ll regret (if I regret anything) not accomplishing the stuff I could have accomplished if I had watched less football.  I might even regret the books I didn’t read because I was too busy watching football.

  1. Watching too much sports makes you dumber.

I don’t have any proof (besides anecdotal examples), but I know it’s true.  When I started watching sports a lot, my other cognitive abilities flat-lined.  I struggled in school a little more, especially with subjects that had been easy beforehand.  I recognized it at the time but didn’t care because I was fitting in at school more and the academic drop-off wasn’t significant enough to hurt me.

Once I started wasting hours and hours each Saturday and Sunday watching football, though, huge blocks of study time disappeared.  Since football is an autumn sport, my spring semester grades were always better.  One year I even took a light load of college classes in the autumn so that I could watch more football, and then I took a heavy load in the spring to make up for it. At the time, I thought it was brilliant.  Anybody who doesn’t watch sports probably thinks my idea was really stupid.  From a normal person’s point-of-view, only a football fan would be dumb enough to schedule classes based on games.

  1. Sports don’t unify people as much anymore.

Sports used to be a great unifier.  I grew up in an area where almost everybody rooted for the local football team (the specific team isn’t important).  The team unified everybody, even people who hated each other.  I once hugged a guy (in a masculine way) whom I despised just because of a great play that won a game for a team both of us liked.

But now sports is used to create divisions, which are unnecessary during a time of great divide (though I think divisions in the late 1960s and early 1970s were worse).  I’m not going to get into the specific issues (because I’m not writing this to be divisive), but athletes and team organizations are getting involved in political issues that they had avoided (or stayed quiet about) in the past.   Of course, they have the right to get involved and be outspoken.  I also have the right to ignore them and stop watching.

When that happens, I now realize, we both win.

*****

Even though I don’t watch sports anymore, I still am aware of sports.  I keep track of the scores.  I watch a few highlights.  I read a few quick articles every day.  I know enough to still talk about it, but the time I spend on it doesn’t keep me from doing anything else.

What do you think?  What other reasons do you have to stop watching sports?  If you’ve never watched sports anyway, feel free to pile on with your own reasons.

3 Reasons to NOT Finish Books That You Don’t Like

(image via wikimedia)

It’s easy to finish reading a book if you like it.  When you don’t enjoy a book, however, sometimes even the most devoted reader thinks about quitting.  Some readers are proud to finish every book they’ve started, but sometimes it’s just not worth it.

According to a study from a few years ago,  the most unfinished book is A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawkings.  Even though the title had the word brief , the book wasn’t brief enough for most readers to finish it.  A lot of classic literature gets unfinished too.  People quit reading novels like Moby Dick or Great Expectations because literature can be too difficult or too boring.

When I quit reading a book, I don’t want to admit that it was too difficult or too boring for me.  I was raised to accept challenges, so quitting because a book was too hard is a weak move.  Quitters are weak, and readers are not weak (at least I’m not), so we need legitimate reasons to stop reading books that we don’t like.

With that in mind, here are three good reasons to NOT finish reading books that you don’t like:

  1. There are other, better books to read.

Every moment you waste reading a book you don’t like is a moment you’re not reading a book you might enjoy.  Reading isn’t supposed to be an endurance test, unless it’s for academic purposes.  Think of all the enjoyment you’re missing out on just so you can “endure” a book you don’t like.

If you quit reading one book so that you can start reading another book, you’re still reading.  You don’t have to justify yourself as a reader as long you’re reading.  It’s not like you’re quitting a book so that you can play video games or watch porn or go to work.

Finishing a lousy book is almost rewarding bad behavior.  If an author writes a crappy book and everybody reads it to the bitter end, the writer is encouraged to keep writing crappy books.  I don’t believe in rewarding bad behavior.  Therefore, there’s no shame in giving up on a book so that you can read another better book and encourage writers to improve.

  1. You save a lot of time.

I hate it when I spend money on a book and then don’t finish it.  To me, that’s wasted money.  Yeah, wasted money ticks me off, but wasted time is even worse.  I’m at an age where I’m much more aware of how much time I have left (even in the best-case scenarios).  I don’t mean that to be grim, but I’m not wasting my time reading an unenjoyable book if I don’t have to.

It doesn’t even matter what a reader uses that extra time for.  If you decide to use that extra time to read another better book, that’s great.  Reading time is better spent with a good book than a book that you dread.  If you use that time to do something with your family or fix something around the house, that’s great too.  As long as you’re not using the saved time to… like I’ve already said… play video games or watch porn, it’s okay to quit a book to do something that isn’t reading.

  1. You don’t HAVE to read an entire book to judge it.

Once you read a few chapters of almost any book, you know what the rest of the book will be like.  That’s true at least 90% of the time.  I’m not sure where I pulled that 90% number, but it’s probably true.  If enough people agree with me and keep repeating it, then it will be true whether it’s true or not.  So I’m sticking with 90%.

You can get a feel for the writer’s style in the first few chapters of a book.  You can tell if the writer can describe scenery, set up interesting situations, and write realistic dialogue.  If you don’t like the writing at the beginning of the book, you probably won’t like it as the book continues either.  Books might have surprises and twists, and some books take a few chapters to get moving, but the writing style usually doesn’t change that much.

Because of that, you can usually judge a book somewhat accurately without having to read the whole thing.

*****

Despite what I’ve written, it’s easy for me to decide whether or not to finish reading a book that I don’t like:

* If I’m reading for the challenge, I finish the book.

* If I’m reading for the experience, I finish the book.

* If I’m reading for enjoyment, I don’t finish the book.

What do you think?  Do you finish every book you read?  If not, how do you decide whether or not to finish a book you don’t like?

 

5 Ways To Write a Bestselling Book

Maybe someday one of my books will be… aw, never mind.

If you are writing books, you probably want to sell them, and nothing sells better than a bestselling book.  There’s a lot of advice about how to become a bestselling author, things like genre selection and social media strategies and other stuff like that.  Most advice is vague, however, and writers need specific strategies.

I am NOT a bestselling author, just so you know, but I have studied bestselling authors and what they have done, and I have discovered five strategies that give you a much better chance of becoming a successful book writer.

1.  Become a celebrity.

A person can become a celebrity first and THEN write a book, such as Magnolia Table by Joanna Gaines or Born a Crime by Trevor Noah or even Becoming by Michele Obama.  A celebrity book is almost guaranteed to get sales.  Celebrities have fan bases who want to support the celebrity and give them money, even if the fans often don’t read the book.

A lot of writers don’t want to be celebrities, though.  A lot of writers just want to sell enough books to be able to keep writing books.  Most writers don’t want to be recognized in public and followed around and stalked.  For a lot of writers, being a celebrity sounds like a form of Hell.

I don’t even know what most famous writers look like anyway.  I might recognize Stephen King or James Patterson or George R.R. Martin if I saw them in public, but that’s about it.  That guy who wrote the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction winner or that woman whose first novel is being turned into a Netflix series, I don’t know what they look like, and they probably like it that way.

2.  Write a negative book about the President of the United States.

A writer can write a negative book about a current president.  It doesn’t even matter who the president is; a negative book automatically attracts readers who are mad that their side lost. The current president has inspired recent bestsellers like Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff and A Higher Loyalty by James Comey.  When Barack Obama was president, a bunch of bestsellers were books complaining about how horrible President Obama was.  A few of those writers didn’t even work for FOX News.

3.  Coauthor a book with James Patterson.

If James Patterson asks you to coauthor a book with him, you are guaranteed of becoming a bestselling author.  There’s a stigma to this because everybody knows that James Patterson’s name, not the quality of your writing, sold the book.  Readers might not know how much you wrote and how much James Patterson wrote.  Then again, most people who read James Patterson books don’t care about stuff like that.

James Patterson sells so many books that even famous people want to write books with him.  Former United States President Bill Clinton could have sold a bunch of books by himself, but he still coauthored The President Is Missing with James Patterson.  Having a former president write a political thriller with you might give your novel a little more credibility.

If I had a choice between writing a book with either James Patterson or Bill Clinton, I’d choose Bill Clinton, but I’d keep my wife and daughter away from him.

4.  Work for a major book publisher (while lying about having cancer).

An author can work as an editor/associate for a publishing company and then have that publishing company publicize the heck out of the author’s book (while also calling it “the next Gone Girl“), such as The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn.  Yeah,  A.J. Finn (not his real name, but that’s okay) is now a famous writer, but everybody knows he lied about having cancer.  Most people would never think about lying about cancer, not even if it would help them to network and get a book deal.

Now the world knows how scummy A.J. Finn is for pretending that he was a cancer survivor.  At least, I think he’s pretty scummy.  All I’ve done is change my name a little bit and composited some people in my life.  And I admit that up front.

5.  Put profanity in the book title.

About ten years ago, some nobody wrote a book called Sh*t My Dad Says.  It became a bestseller and was successful enough to inspire a sequel and a television show.  The sequel failed because there wasn’t enough of the dad who says sh*t.  The television show failed because… I don’t know why because I didn’t watch it.

Kevin Smith, who wrote and co-starred in a bunch of popular movies in the 1990s, authored a book called Tough Sh*t, but it just annoyed everybody because he was a celebrity using profanity in a book title, which is either very desperate or very selfish.  A celebrity’s name should be enough to sell his or her book.

Several more recent bestselling authors have continued using this strategy.  You are a Badass by Jen Sincero is a lie because anybody who reads the book is not a badass because a true badass already knows he/she is a badass and doesn’t have to read the book.  Another recent book, The Subtle Art of not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson, is a lie because the author obviously gives a f*ck; otherwise the word F*ck in the title wouldn’t need to be censored.

Putting profanity in a book title might be lame, but it sells books.  At least it will until too many authors try it and it gets old.  Then authors will have to resort to double and triple profanity.  Sh*t My Dad Says will have to become F*cking Sh*t My F*cking G*DD*mn Dad Says.  Profanity hasn’t gotten old in hip-hop; it might not get old in book titles either.

*****

Not every author has what it takes to become a bestselling author.  Maybe you don’t want to become a celebrity, or maybe you actually like the current president.  Maybe the thought of working with James Patterson (or Bill Clinton) turns your stomach.  Maybe you don’t want to lie about having cancer.  Maybe you don’t have any connections whatsoever with the publishing industry.  Maybe all you want to do is write and be known for high-quality writing.

If that’s the case, good luck to you!

But if that’s not the case, what strategy would you most likely use to become a bestselling author?

*****

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5 Reasons Why George R.R. Martin Should NOT Finish Writing A Game of Thrones

Many fans of A Game of Thrones believe that the book series A Song of Fire and Ice will never get finished, and there might be a good reason for this.  After all, author George R.R.  Martin doesn’t look all that healthy, so some morbid fans speculate that he will die before he can complete the series.  To be fair, I’m sure most of those fans are worried for Martin’s sake and not for that of the book series.

As much as I want George R.R. Martin to live a long time, my theory is that Martin could live another 20 or 30 years and still not finish the series.  If we look at the situation from his point of view, maybe George R.R. Martin shouldn’t finish writing A Song of Ice and Fire.

Here are five reasons why George R.R. Martin (maybe) shouldn’t finish A Song of Ice and Fire:

1.   He doesn’t want to finish it.

Maybe George R.R. Martin really wants to finish A Song of Ice and Fire, but he acts like he doesn’t want to finish it.  The fifth book, A Dance of Dragons, came out almost ten years ago.  Since then, Martin has written several books that are NOT the sixth book.  If Martin had wanted to finish A Song of Ice and Fire, he probably would have done it already.

2.   He likes the attention that an unfinished series brings.

Once A Song of Ice and Fire is done and fans have reacted to it, the attention that Martin receives will drop.  Right now, everybody wants to know about the last two books.  When will they come out?  How long will they be?  How different from the HBO series will the books be?  Once the books are out, all the interest surrounding Martin can never be replicated.  He might know that he will never be in the spotlight again.  Maybe he wants to hang on to the spotlight as long as he can.  If this is true, then maybe he shouldn’t finish A Song of Ice and Fire.

3.   The ending sucks.

Maybe the book ending is too similar to HBO’s version and he doesn’t want to admit it.  Or maybe he doesn’t have an ending at all.  No matter what happens, fans aren’t going to like what happens.  Favorite characters are going to die.  Some predictable things might happen.  It might be too much like the HBO series.  It might be too different from the HBO series.  The only way to resolve everything to the satisfaction of most fans is to not finish it at all.  To some readers, a non-existent ending would be better than a bad one.

4.   He has Game of Thrones writers block.

Let’s face it, the fourth and fifth books of A Song of Ice and Fire were completely different from the first three.  The fourth and fifth books were like reading from a different series, and it wasn’t an improvement.  In fact, reading those two books was difficult.  As an aspiring writer, I wonder if writing those books was difficult for Martin.  They took longer for him to write than the first three books did.  That might mean he had a tough time writing them, and it might not be getting any easier.

Game of Thrones writer’s block might explain this.  If this is true, Martin has had a long time to get out of it, and whatever he’s doing to combat the block doesn’t seem to be working. 

5.   There are so many Dunk and Egg stories to tell.

George R.R. Martin likes writing Dunk and Egg stories.  They’re shorter than Game of Thrones books, and they’re popular enough to satisfy a part of Martin’s audience.  He also likes writing the history of Westeros, and there’s a lot of history to tell.  Personally, I’d rather read real history than fantasy history.   I don’t understand people who think fantasy history is more interesting than real history, but that’s just me.  If Dunk and Egg stories and Westeros histories are now George R.R. Martin’s passion, then maybe that’s what he should write instead of A Song of Ice and Fire.

*****

For years I said that I would not read A Song of Ice and Fire until George R.R. Martin has finished the series.  Since then, I have found myself writing about it more than I write about most other topics.  I finally broke down and read the five available books, so now I understand why George R.R. Martin might not finish it.

If George R.R. Martin never finishes A Song of Ice and Fire, though, I’ll be okay.  I won’t have much of an emotional reaction.  Like many fans, I’ll just shrug and think, I figured that might happen.  And then I’ll probably write a few blog posts about it.