This Just In…

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…TAT-tat-tat-TAT-TAT-tat-tat-TAT…

[Breaking News: from another strangely irrelevant moment in our newsroom...]

The term “news hole” is often used by journalists. This shouldn’t be confused with another, similar-sounding term that is just as often used by journalists, usually when they think the editor isn’t listening. In this case, however, “news hole” refers to the space remaining in a newspaper after the ads have been placed. It’s our job as journalists to fill that space with stories, press releases and, when some newspapers find it necessary, my humor column.

As I’m sure you can imagine, a “news hole” gets larger or smaller, fluctuating in size depending on how tightly packed it is with advertising.

Ok, it’s probably a good idea to stop using your imagination now. Continue reading

Friendly health tip for the guy at Fred Meyer

As a journalist, I’m trained to notice even the most subtle sign that something is out of the ordinary.

An awkward glance.
A hesitant word.
A 65-year-old man reading Cosmopolitan…

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To the man I saw reading this magazine while getting his blood pressure checked at Fred Meyer: I’m no doctor, but it’s possible your elevated blood pressure reading probably has nothing to do with that extra piece of bacon you ate this morning…

Your investments are safe, thanks to me and other financial dunderheads

image Given the state of today’s economy, it’s hard to know who to trust when it comes to investing your money. You could trust ME of course, but that would mean giving your money to someone whose greatest return on an investment came when I accidentally got a 75-cent candy bar out of a vending machine using only two quarters.

The truth is, I know absolutely nothing about the financial marketplace. This is why I currently do not own any stocks, bonds, treasury bills, money market accounts or, for that matter, any actual money. However, it’s because of this — and what the White House calls my “unique financial perspective” — that I was asked to join the Presidential Advisory Board on Corporate Fraud, where our motto is:

For every dirty business we wipe out, there’s somebody taking a bath.

It’s our job to sift through literally thousands of highly complex financial reports sent in by America’s corporations, and then analyze each one for signs of fraudulent activity. You may be wondering how someone like myself — with the financial IQ of a Rhesus monkey — could possibly hope to find ANY sign of shenanigans somewhere in the complicated maze of bookkeeping ledgers, profit statements, and Hooters receipts. Continue reading

Breaking news from my booth at the book fair!

As I mentioned yesterday, I am at the Festival of Books here on the Oregon coast, stirring up a level of excitement over my book that fair organizers have called a frenzy “similar to a Peaches and Herb concert…”

Doing my best to keep a handle on the pandemonium.

Doing my best to keep a handle on the pandemonium.

Kids coloring books that will give you a Long Awkward Pause

Knock! Knock!
Who’s there?
Not me! That’s because I’m with the rest of the staff over at Long Awkward Pause for this week’s Saturday Six — which is when each of us comments on six strange but loosely related things. Sort of like the Brady kids. This week’s subject? Corrupted coloring books…

1. Fire Ant?

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Omawarisan: Dermatologists recommend a wide brimmed hat and sunscreen that is at least SPF 35.

List of X: I still have no idea what color is Burnt Umber, but at least now I know what color Burned Ant is.

BrainRants: Perfectly illustrates the twisted relationship between ants and magnifying glasses. A+

Ned: Maybe next time he’ll have the decency to wear some clothes and hide that third antenna.

(Trust me, it gets weirder. So bring your Crayons and meet me for more at Long Awkward Pause…)

Who knew writing could actually give you a hernia?

image Welcome to Ned’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing! It’s that time each week when I offer writing wisdom gained from 15 years as a columnist who, until recently, has remained completely hernia-free! It’s a feature the American Journal of Medicine is calling, “Writing advice that gets results as quickly as bending over and coughing…” or what Dr. Oz has touted as “The only place I haven’t stuck my face yet. And by that I mean his blog, not pelvic area…”

But enough accolades!

As I’ve mentioned before, writing can be a dangerous business, particularly for columnists who find themselves coughing uncontrollably from a seated position. As much as I’d like to say I got my femoral hernia after a tap-out while dragging firehose into a burning structure, or because I’m an amazing lover, the truth is it happened while I was sitting exactly where I am — during a bad coughing fit. I’ve been nursing this cough for about a month, which began with a high fever at the end of my vacation in August. Naturally, I assumed it was just my body’s way of preparing to return to work.

Besides, as my wife knows, “I never get sick!”

These words are already being chiseled into my tombstone. Continue reading

Never had food poisoning? Make sure to thank a humor columnist today

In observance of National Columnists Day, I’m running a post from a few years ago that I feel captures the essence of what it means to be a humor columnist, and why it’s a good idea to keep a current Food Handler’s Card available…

image Being a journalist, I naturally have journalist friends who, whenever we get together, want to talk about (yawn) heady issues facing the nation and the world. This is done in a discussion format similar to “Meet the Press,” except that our debates are often interrupted by someone’s beer getting knocked over.

Aside from that, it’s just like the show on TV.

As you can imagine, our exchanges get pretty heated as each of us presents an important topic of debate:

What is our stance on the Middle East?

Should we overhaul social security?

How do we deal with North Korea?

Or, as I challenged:

Why does the new Bugs Bunny look like he’s been shooting steroids with Jose Canseco?

That’s usually when our debate comes to a screeching halt and I’m forced, once again, to defend my journalistic integrity by explaining the value of what I do, then underscoring it by offering to pay for everyone’s beer. Continue reading

Forget meteors and zombies — Giant rabbits are world’s biggest threat

image As a journalist, I’m trained to recognize the most subtle signs of trouble:

A misspoken word.

A reluctant glance.

A horde of slobbering rabbits.

Thanks to my training and experience, and several highlighted newspaper clippings sent in by concerned readers, I have painstakingly pieced together what I, as a member of the conservative media, believe is undeniable evidence that rabbits are planning to take over the world.

How?

By radiating themselves and producing offspring roughly the size of Volkswagen Beatles. Continue reading

Passive/aggressive problem solving worth a Long Awkward Pause

It’s Saturday! And as if that wasn’t enough good news, I’m with the rest of the staff over at Long Awkward Pause commenting on the Saturday Six — a weekly collection of six awkward but loosely related images that will leave you scratching your head. Unless you’re a guy, in which case you’ll probably be scratching your… uh… belly. This week’s S6 theme is those helpful passive/aggressive notes that say one thing but mean something else entirely. Think of it as kicking off the political campaign season! Here’s our first example:

1. It’s All About The Bass

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 BrainRants: Code for, ‘I have to get up sometime tomorrow, so if you think that’s important, you’ll go downstairs and risk your life over this problem.‘  Passive aggressive b***h.

Omawarisan: This situation calls for fighting fire with fire, not a note. If stereo guy is coming in at three, he’s probably really sleeping well about 6:30-7. Rise up, don’t hide!

singlegirlie: Sounds like someone’s looking for treble.

Calahan: At one time, this is a note I would have left. Now that I’m a little older (and, yes, wiser) I know that the best remind myself that we Americans are free to do as we please, listen to whatever music we choose, keep what hours we want. Then, I slash the guy’s tires when I know he’s sleeping. *POP* *HISSSssssss….*

Ned: I think instead of a note, which seems childish, I would’ve taken a more mature approach by rallying my neighbors to all have excruciatingly loud monkey sex every time he closes the door to his apartment.

(Too passive? Overly aggressive? Just right if you happen to be a serial killer? We’ve got more examples over at LAP!)

Is there such a thing as too much climaxing? (In your manuscript, Jeez!)

image For those visiting for the first time because of the search term “climax,” welcome to Ned’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing! This weekly feature is when I share the writing wisdom gained from 15 years as a columnist by — much like a porn movie — quickly stripping things down to the bare essentials and offering techniques that hopefully lead to a lot of “oohing” and “awing.” It’s a weekly feature Publishers Digest has called, “Writing tips that will keep your manuscript out of the slush pile, especially if there’s return postage included…” and what porn star Ron Jeremy has touted as “Enormously engorging… Oops, I mean engaging.”

But enough accolades!

The climax.

For those who zoned out after discovering this is a post about writing, welcome back! For everyone else, especially those working on a manuscript, short story or article for publication, you already know the climax is that point in your piece that brings everything together in a way that leaves your reader feeling completely and utterly satisfied by someone who is, at least in literary terms, a giving lover skilled at pacing the climactic moment specifically to put the reader’s needs ahead of their own.

Needless to say, this can be challenging. And not just for male writers, many of whom have already skipped ahead looking for the next “climax” reference. Whether writing a mystery novel, erotica, a humorous magazine article or non-fiction blog post, a reader needs to feel a sense that they are working toward something — a big reveal, moment of enlightenment, resolution to a problem, punchline — in order to be fully engaged and eventually finish with that sense of satisfaction we strive for as husbands writers. Continue reading