Posted in Lessons by The Books Production Team on January 29, 2009


typewriter9 I guess, technically speaking, if I were forced to list the greatest regrets of my life, I would have to come up with a series of events where it would have been in my power to act differently, and I just made stupid decisions.That is, after all, the most technical meaning of the word “regret.”On this list, I’d include things like, “I wish I hadn’t quit playing basketball the summer before my senior year to devote more time to watching The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”Or I’d include things like, “I wish, out of some misguided sense of hyper-fiscal responsibility, I hadn’t been so miserly during the first eight months of my marriage, because it probably contributed to my divorce.”But making a list like this isn’t much fun.In fact, it’s pretty much just painful.So, in a less literal, more comedic sense, I think my greatest life regret is probably not having been born twenty years earlier so that I could have fully experienced the disco era – because to me, the concept of the disco is just completely awesome.

For one thing, I would have been a way better dancer if my clubbing days would have occurred at the height of the KC and the Sunshine Band zeitgeist.As has been previously alluded to, I’m not real good at dancing in the modern sense – but this is mostly because my body doesn’t vibrate in the intuitive spasms that govern contemporary grindage, and public displays of simulated sexual acts make me a little uncomfortable.I am, on the other hand, and I’m quite sure this would be to the chagrin of Danny Kaye’s character in White Christmas, relatively good at learning choreography.You see, back in my fraternity days, the sorority choreographer of our Lip-Sync and Air-Band competitions would almost always place me in the front, because I could easily learn the moves – and disco-dancing is really nothing more than a series of choreographed moves, which would have been good for me.Also, the outfits were pretty sweet.

snf Anyways, perhaps because of this longing for the 1970s, I find it absolutely hysterical whenever something is referred to as being analogous to a disco.For instance, in one of the first two Chris Rock HBO stand-up specials – either Bring the Pain or Bigger and Blacker – he refers to community college as being a “disco with books,” where anyone can “pay ten dollars and get their learn on.”No offense to community colleges here, because I think they provide a valuable service for kids who can’t afford 4 years at 50 grand a pop and adults who want to continue their education, but in my mind, what Chris Rock says is funny.Just like it’s funny when someone refers to a car-wash as being a disco with soap, a church as being a disco with Bibles, or a lake as being a disco with fish (and I completely realize that this list makes less sense the further along you read).

So, to make a long story (a little) shorter – when I was preparing my notes for this lesson, I riffed off about 50 different places on an average college campus where one might potentially study, but not sufficiently concentrate, because these places were like a disco.But you probably don’t want to read an entire list of 50 items where the best joke might be that the cafeteria is like a disco with Salisbury steak, so I’ll get on with it.And thus, we now find ourselves at the crux of Lesson #50: Find the Nook – and no, this isn’t some secret innuendo paying homage to Fred Durst and Limp Bizkit.

Your job, while you’re in college, is first and foremost to study.There’s no getting around this fact, and the reason is this: if you don’t study, you’re not going to make it to the point in the future where your job will be first and foremost your job – or at least, your job won’t be to go every day to a place of employment that you like or that pays you enough money to buy a second house in the Hamptons.So, you’ve got to study.But the thing that makes this hard in college is that there are so many other awesome things to do with your time, and so many distractions – even in places that should theoretically be quiet, like your dorm room (particularly if your roommate is Cooper from Dead Man on Campus) or the main study areas in the library (which are really just discos with people who talk too loudly on their cell phones).Thus, the secret is to find a place where you can maximize your study time by becoming completely insulated from the outside world – a little place on your campus that will become your own personal study nook – like one of the turrets in the administration castle or an abandoned storage closet underneath the football stadium.You might think I’m joking here, or that these places sound a little crazy, but I’m not.Every campus has at least 50 of these little nooks that can become your own private office, and if you want to find that magical spot where the studying that used to take you an exhausting six hours of drudgery now takes you only a focused two (seriously, you’ll be amazed how much more work you get done when nobody stops by every ten minutes to tell you that they’re having “Penny Pitchers” that night at Bogey’s), then all you’ve got to do is to spend a few hours this afternoon exploring.

Now, that being said, has anybody been watching that show Life on Mars on ABC?Evidently, it’s about a guy who wakes up to mysteriously find himself in 1977 – and if that’s the case, I want to know what his secret is – because I’m just itching for a chance to start wearing bell-bottoms while I learn to do the Hustle.

A Bonus Post From Dr. Wizard’s Appendix…

Posted in Uncategorized by The Books Production Team on January 27, 2009

typewriter8          So today’s one of those rare magical things we call a snow day in Saint Louis, which means that instead of going into the office, I’ve spent the day in much more productive fashion watching old episodes of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” listening to my new Katy Perry album, reading five recently purchased television pilot scripts, and working on the index and appendices for the book version of Dr. Wizard’s Advice.  Overall, this little snow-induced break from Des Peres 204 has been refreshing, and also a little surprising.  Did you know, for example, that the pilot episode of “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” is one of the greatest introductions to a television series ever?  Or that at various points in Dr. Wizard’s Advice I have referenced Zsa Zsa Gabor, Willie Mays Hayes, and the Oregon Trail?  Crazy, I know – but both are true.  Anyway, I thought I’d post a snippet from one of the appendices on the website tonight before I head off to teach the GMAT, so here’s a short excerpt from “Ten Little Things You Must Experience Before Leaving College.”


The Dark Side of the Rainbow”

dark-side          There is absolutely no experience more quintessentially collegian than watching a volume-muted version of The Wizard of Oz while listening to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon – and if you haven’t done this, then you absolutely must, immediately.  In a strange occurrence of what the late psychologist Carl Jung has deemed synchronicity, it just so happens that the rainbow-covered album provides an eerie, ironic, and totally mind-bending soundtrack to Dorothy’s voyage over the rainbow. 

          Now, there’s great debate as to whether or not these items were originally intended to be paired by Pink Floyd, but from my perspective, it doesn’t really matter.  If, on the one hand, when Roger Waters was masterminding production of Dark Side of the Moon, he was secretly staging an L. Frank Baum-inspired coup, or if, on the other hand, when Dark Side of the Moon was produced, God was secretly guiding the process such that the two would form an unexpected pair of classics that work together to produce a level of awesomeness similar to that which comes from dipping your French Fries in your Frosty at Wendy’s, the outcome – in the end – trumps all intention. 

          So here’s what you do.  Invite all of your friends over for a “Dark Side of the Rainbow” party, and make sure you have an American copy of the 102 minute version of the movie and a digitally re-mastered copy of the CD (you cannot use iTunes and you absolutely must not experience this for the first time using a pre-synched version from the internet – it ruins half the fun).  Then, once everyone is settled and sufficiently primed for the trippy experience, take your copy of Dark Side of the Moon and place it in your CD player.  As soon as it clicks to 0:00 on the first track and begins playing, press the pause button.  Next, start up the DVD of The Wizard of Oz with the volume turned off, and as soon as the black and white MGM lion roars for the third time, press the play button on the CD.  Then sit back and experience 43 minutes of crazy.  If the arrival of the twister, and the concomitant wailing on “Great Gig in the Sky” doesn’t make the hair on the back of your neck stand up, then something is wrong with you.

          But even that, as awesome as it is, isn’t the best part of the whole experience.  You see, after it’s all said and done, you and your friends get to have a raging debate about whether or not the whole thing was planned, and whether or not the links are real – and this is where everything gets really fun.  For ammunition during this discussion, you can download a list of the synchronicities here.  Is it just coincidence that Dorothy is balancing on a fence rail during “Breathe” when Waters sings “balanced on the biggest wave”?  Or that the scarecrow without a brain dances around during “Brain Damage”?  Once the debate has raged for a little while, let everyone refresh their drink, and then start the movie up again from the beginning – this time with the list of clues.  Afterwards, congratulate yourself, and know that  you can now check off one of the “Ten Little Things You Must Experience Before Leaving College” from your list.