Volume 6
A Fun Site created by
Professor William Hillman culled from a daily motivational series
compiled for his BU Education Classes 2000-2009
The daily tech news items have been omitted since many of the stories are now "old news."

An eclectic collection of oddities, humorous anecdotes, weird photos, funny headlines, cartoons, puzzles, inspirational items, jokes, and more. . .  gathered here as a reference repository for speakers, lecturers, teachers, students, writers, or Web travellers just looking for diversion and a bit of levity. 

Click above image  for full collage
Go to Rare Photos Page #6


These are actual excuse notes from parents (including original spellings)
collected by Nisheeth Parekh, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston
  • My son is under a doctors care and should not take P.E. today. Please execute him.
  • Please excuse Lisa for being absent. She was sick and I had her shot.
  • Dear School: Please ekscuse John being absent on Jan. 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, and also 33.
  • Please excuse Gloria from Jim today. She is administrating.
  • Please excuse Roland from P.E. for a few days. Yesterday he fell out of a tree and misplaced his hip.
  • John has been absent because he had two teeth taken out of his face.
  • Carlos was absent yesterday because he was playing football. He was hurt in the growing part.
  • Megan could not come to school today because she has been bothered by very close veins.
  • Chris will not be in school cus he has an acre in his side.
  • Please excuse Ray Friday from school. He has very loose vowels.
  • Please excuse Pedro from being absent yesterday. He had (diahre) (dyrea) (direathe) the shits. [words in the ( )'s
  • were crossed out]
  • Please excuse Tommy for being absent yesterday. He had diarrhea and his boots leak.
  • Irving was absent yesterday because he missed his bust.
  • Please excuse Jimmy for being. It was his fathers fault.
  • Please excuse Jennifer for missing school yesterday. We forgot to get the Sunday paper off the porch, and when we
  • found it Monday, we thought it was Sunday.
  • Sally won't be in school a week from Friday. We have to attend her funeral.
  • My daughter was absent yesterday because she was tired. She spent a weekend with the Marines.
  • Please excuse Mary for being absent yesterday. She was in bed with gramps.
  • Gloria was absent yesterday as she was having a gangover.
  • Please excuse Burma, she has been sick and under the doctor.



    At Duke University, there were four sophomores taking Organic Chemistry.

    They were doing so well on all the quizzes, midterms and labs, etc.,that each had an A so far for the semester. These four friends were so confident that the weekend before finals, they decided to go up to the University of Virginia and party with some friends there. They had a great time, but after all the hearty partying, they slept all day Sunday and didn't make it
    back to Duke until early Monday morning.

    Rather than taking the final then, they decided to find their professor after the final and explain to him why they missed it.
    They explained that they had gone to UVA for the weekend with the plan to come back in time to study, but, unfortunately, they had a flat tire on the way back, didn't have a spare, and couldn't get help for a long time. As a result, they missed the final.

    The professor thought it over and then agreed they could make up the final the following day. The guys were elated and relieved. They studied that night and went in the next day at the time the professor had told them. He placed them in separate rooms and handed each of them a test booklet, and told them to begin.

    They looked at the first problem, worth five points. It was something simple about free radical formation. Cool, they thought! All at the same time, each one in his separate room, thought, this is going to be easy. Each finished the lengthy problem and then turned the page. On the second page was written:

    For 95 points: Which tire?

    This you have to see to believe
    The phone rings: Tech support: "Hello computer tech support. " Customer: "Hello my computer was making a strange hissing noise last night and this morning when I turned it on there was a crackling noise and some smoke then nothing, if I bring it in can you fix it?"


    I think animal testing is a terrible idea; they get all nervous and give the wrong answers.
    -- A Bit of Fry and Laurie

    The hypothalamus is one of the most important parts of the brain, involved in many kinds of motivation, among other functions. The hypothalamus controls the "Four F's": 1. fighting; 2. fleeing; 3.feeding; and 4. mating.
    -- Psychology professor in neuropsychology intro course

    With every passing hour our solar system comes forty-three thousand miles closer to globular cluster M13 in the constellation Hercules, and still there are some misfits who continue to insist that there is no such thing as progress.
    -- Ransom K. Ferm

    Madness takes its toll. Please have exact change.

    The graduate with a Science degree asks, "Why does it work?" The graduate with an Engineering degree asks, "How does it work?" The graduate with an Accounting degree asks, "How much will it cost?" The graduate with a Liberal Arts degree asks, "Do you want fries with  that?"

    I am not a vegetarian because I love animals; I am a vegetarian because I hate plants.
    -- A. Whitney Brown

    There's so much comedy on television. Does that cause comedy in the streets?
    -- Dick Cavett, mocking the TV-violence debate

    Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.

    Experience is that marvelous thing that enables you recognize a mistake when you make it again.
    -- F. P. Jones

    When I told the people of Northern Ireland that I was an atheist, a woman in the audience stood up and said, "Yes, but is it the God of the Catholics or the God of the Protestants in whom you don't believe?
    -- Quentin Crisp

    My opinions may have changed, but not the fact that I am right.
    -- Ashleigh Brilliant

    Her kisses left something to be desired
    -- the rest of her.

    Drawing on my fine command of language, I said nothing.

    Based on what you know about him in history books, what do you think Abraham Lincoln would be doing if he were alive today?
    1. Writing his memoirs of the Civil War.
    2. Advising the President.
    3. Desperately clawing at the inside of his coffin.
    --David Letterman

    For three days after death, hair and fingernails continue to grow but phone calls taper off.
    -- Johnny Carson

    Don't worry about temptation--as you grow older, it starts avoiding you.
    -- Old Farmer's Almanac

    G: "If we do happen to step on a mine, Sir, what do we do?"
    EB: "Normal procedure, Lieutenant, is to jump 200 feet in the air and scatter oneself over a wide area."
    -- Somewhere in No Man's Land,

    The only difference between me and a madman is that I am not mad. -- Salvador Dali


    These are taken from resumes and cover letters that were printed in the July 21, 1997 issue of Fortune Magazine: (The spelling is exactly the way it appeared in the magazine.)

      1."I demand a salary commiserate with my extensive experience."
      2."I have lurnt Word Perfect 6.0 computor and spreadsheet progroms."
      3."Received a plague for Salesperson of the Year."
      4."Reason for leaving last job: maturity leave."
      5."Wholly responsible for two (2) failed financial institutions."
      6."Failed bar exam with relatively high grades."
      7."It's best for employers that I not work with people."
      8."Let's meet, so you can 'ooh' and 'aah' over my experience."
      9."You will want me to be Head Honcho in no time."
     10."Am a perfectionist and rarely if if ever forget details."
     11."I was working for my mom until she decided to move."
     12."Marital status: single. Unmarried. Unengaged. Uninvolved. No commitments."
     13."I have an excellent track record, although I am not a horse."
     14."I am loyal to my employer at all costs...Please feel free to respond to my resume on my office voice mail."
     15."I have become completely paranoid, trusting completely no one and absolutely nothing."
     16."My goal is to be a meteorologist. But since I possess no training in meteorology, I suppose I should try stock brokerage."
     17."I procrastinate, especially when the task is unpleasant."
     18."As indicted, I have over five years of analyzing investments."
     19."Personal interests: donating blood. Fourteen gallons so far."
     20."Instrumental in ruining entire operation for a Midwest chain store."
     21."Note: Please don't miscontrue my 14 jobs as 'job-hopping'. I have never quit a job."
     22."Marital status: often. Children: various."
     23."Reason for leaving last job: They insisted that all employees get to work by 8:45 a.m. every morning. Could not work under those conditions."
     24."The company made me a scapegoat, just like my three previous employers."
     25."Finished eighth in my class of ten."
     26."References: None. I've left a path of destruction behind me."


    The setting is Ohio State University about six or seven years ago in a huge lecture hall (approximately 1000 students) for a Calculus final. Apparently this particular calculus teacher wasn't very well liked. He was one of those guys who would stand at the front of the class and yell out how much time was remaining before the end of a test, a real charmer. Since he was so busy gallivanting around the room making sure that nobody cheated and that everyone was aware of how much time they had left before their failure on the test was complete, he had the students stack the completed tests on the huge podium at the front of the room. This made for quite a mess, remember there were 1000 students in the class. Anyway, during this particular final, one guy entered the test needing a decent grade to pass the class. His only problem with Calculus was that he did poorly when rushed, and this guy standing in the front of the room barking out how much time was left before the tests had to be handed in didn't help him at all. He figured he wanted to assure himself of a good grade, so he hardly flinched when the professor said "pencils down and submit your scantron sheets and work to piles at the front of the room". Five minutes turned into ten, ten into twenty, twenty into forty ... almost an hour after the test was "officially over", our friend finally put down his pencil, gathered up his work, and headed to the front of the hall to submit his final. The whole time, the professor sat at the front of the room, strangely waiting for the student to complete his exam. "What do you think you're doing?" the professor asked as the student stood in front of him about to put down his exam on one of the neatly stacked piles of exams (the professor had plenty of time to stack the mountain of papers while he waited) It was clear that the professor had waited only to give the student a hard time. "Turning in my exam," retorted the student confidently.

    "I'm afraid I have some bad news for you," the professor gloated, "Your exam is an hour late. You've FAILED it and, consequently, I'll see you next term when you repeat my course." The student smiled slyly and asked the professor "Do you know who I am?" "What?" replied the professor gruffly, annoyed that the student showed no sign of emotion. The student rephrased the question mockingly, "Do you know what my name is?" "NO", snarled the professor. The student looked the professor dead in the eyes and said slowly, "I didn't think so", as he lifted up one of the stacks half way, shoved his test neatly into the center of the stack, let the stack fall burying his test in the middle, turned around, and walked casually out of the huge lecture hall.


    The Edward Bulwar Lytton prize is awarded every year to the author of the worst possible opening line of a book. This has been so successful that Penguin now publishes five books-worth of entries.

    Some recent winners:

    "Just beyond the Narrows the river widens."

    "With a curvaceous figure that Venus would have envied, a tanned, unblemished oval face framed with lustrous thick brown hair, deep azure-blue eyes fringed with long black lashes, perfect teeth that vied for competition, and a small straight nose, Marilee had a beauty that defied description."

    "Andre, a simple peasant, had only one thing on his mind as he crept along the east wall: "Andre creep . . . Andre creep . . .Andre creep."

    "Stanislaus Smedley, a man always on the cutting edge of narcissism, was about to give his body and soul to a back-alley sex-change surgeon -- to become the woman he loved."

    "Although Sarah had an abnormal fear of mice, it did not keep herfrom seeking out a living at a local pet store."

    "As a scientist, Throckmorton knew that if he were ever to break wind in the sound chamber he would never hear the end of it."

    "Stanley looked quite bored and somewhat detached, but then penguins often do."

    "Like an overripe beefsteak tomato rimmed with cottage cheese, the corpulent remains of Santa Claus lay dead on the hotel floor."

    "Mike Hardware was the kind of private eye who didn't know the meaning of the word "fear," a man who could laugh in the face of danger and spit in the eye of death -- in short, a moron with suicidal tendencies."


    "The sun oozed over the horizon, shoved aside darkness, crept along the greensward, and, with sickly fingers, pushed through the castle window, revealing the pillaged princess, hand at throat, crown asunder, gaping in frenzied horror at the sated, sodden amphibian lying beside her, disbelieving the magnitude of the frog's deception, screaming madly, "You lied!"


    Deaf mute gets new hearing in killing
    Police begin campaign to run down jaywalkers
    House passes gas tax onto senate
    Stiff opposition expected to casketless funeral plan
    Two convicts evade noose, jury hung
    William Kelly was fed secretary
    Milk drinkers are turning to powder
    Safety experts say school bus passengers should be belted
    Quarter of a million Chinese live on water
    Farmer bill dies in house
    Iraqi head seeks arms
    Queen Mary having bottom scraped
    Is there a ring of debris around Uranus?
    Prostitutes appeal to Pope
    Panda mating fails - veterinarian takes over
    NJ judge to rule on nude beach
    Child's stool great for use in garden
    Dr. Ruth to talk about sex with newspaper editors
    Soviet virgin lands short of goal again
    Organ festival ends in smashing climax
    Eye drops off shelf
    Squad helps dog bite victim
    Dealers will hear car talk at noon
    Enraged cow injures farmer with axe
    Lawmen from Mexico barbecue guests
    Miners refuse to work after death
    Two Soviet ships collide - one dies
    Two sisters reunite after eighteen years at checkout counter
    Never with hold herpes from loved one
    Nicaragua sets goal to wipe out literacy
    Never with hold herpes from loved one
    Nicaragua sets goal to wipe out literacy
    Drunk drivers paid $1,000 in 1984
    Autos killing 110 a day, let's resolve to do better 


    I don't think I should have to answer that question.

    To die. In the rain. Alone.

    I invented the chicken. I invented the road. Therefore, the chicken crossing the road represented the application of these two different functions of government in a new, reinvented way designed to bring greater services to the American people.

    The chicken's habitat on the original side of the road had been polluted by unchecked industrialist greed. The chicken did not reach the unspoiled habitat on the other side of the road because it was crushed by the wheels of a gas-guzzling SUV.

    To steal a job from a decent, hardworking American.

    I don't know why the chicken crossed the road, but I'll bet it was getting a government grant to cross the road, and I'll bet someone out there is already forming a support group to help chickens with crossing-the-road syndrome. Can you believe this? How much more of this can real Americans take? Chickens crossing the road paid for by their tax dollars, and when I say tax dollars, I'm talking about your money, money the government took from you to build roads for chickens to cross.

    If the chicken crossed the road on my property, I would be fully justified in blocking its exit until the local authorities could arrive to arrest it for trespassing. I am a private person and should not have to be subjected to the "innocent mistakes" of common chickens.

    Because the chicken was gay! Isn't it obvious? Can't you people see the plain truth in front of your face? The chicken was going to the "other side." That's what "they" call it -- the "other side." Yes, my friends, that chicken is gay. And, if you eat that chicken, you will become gay too. I say we boycott all chickens until we sort out this abomination that the liberal media whitewashes with seemingly harmless phrases like "the other side."

    Did the chicken cross the road? Did he cross it with a toad? Yes! The chicken crossed the road, But why it crossed, I've not been told!

    I envision a world where all chickens will be free to cross roads without having their motives called into question.

    In my day, we didn't ask why the chicken crossed the road. Someone told us that the chicken crossed the road, and that was good enough for us.

    Isn't that interesting? In a few moments we will be listening to the chicken tell, for the first time, the heartwarming story of how it overcame a serious case of molting and went on to accomplish its lifelong dream of crossing the road.

    Imagine all the chickens crossing roads in peace.

    It is the nature of chickens to cross the road.

    It was a historical inevitability.

    This was an unprovoked act of rebellion and we were quite justified in dropping 50 tons of nerve gas on it.

    I may not agree with what the chicken did, but I will defend to the death its right to do it.

    To boldly go where no chicken has gone before.

    The fact that you are at all concerned that the chicken crossed the road reveals your underlying sexual insecurity.

    I have just released eChicken 2003, which will not only cross roads, but will lay eggs, file your important documents, and balance your checkbook--and Internet Explorer is an inextricable part of eChicken.

    Did the chicken really cross the road or did the road move beneath the chicken?

    I did not cross the road with THAT chicken. What do you mean by chicken? Could you define chicken please?

    The Road, you will see, represents the black man. The chicken crossed the "black man" in order to trample him and keep him down.

    I missed one?


    Newspaper Archive ~ Headline from the Past

    One of my e-mails to the editors of the National Post, Canada's national newspaper,
    has dragged my observations on the influence of Edgar Rice Burroughs
    into a dispute that has been making international headlines.

    Numerous follow-up phone calls from Toronto with
    requests for book cover illustrations and for more info on ERB's stories have resulted
    in a front page story in the National Post: The headline:
    "Boy and beast on a boat? Oldest idea in the world"
    is accompanied by a colour reproduction of
    John Coleman Burroughs' dust jacket painting for
    lifted from our ERB C.H.A.S.E.R. Online Encyclopedia.
    The story also went on to quote my cohort,
    George McWhorter of the University of Louisville
    and authorities on literature and copyright.

    Unfortunately they didn't get the name of our university quite right : -)

    Lad and the Lion 1st ed. Dust Jacket by John Coleman Burroughs
    Boy and beast on a boat?
    Oldest idea in the world
    Sarah Schmidt ~ National Post
    Yann Martel
    "It appears the plot of a boy on a boat with a beast is nearly a century old."

    Fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs are shaking their heads at Brazilian author Moacyr Scliar's accusation this week that Montreal's Yann Martel stole the premise from him.

    Burroughs, the famed creator of Tarzan, told a similar story in his The Lad and the Lion in 1914.

    Inspired by archetypal religious imagery of people cast adrift with animals, most notably in the tale of Noah's Ark, and the literary tradition of the special bond between child and beast, as in Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book, Burroughs devoted a long chapter of his book to the boy and the lion drifting for years aboard a derelict boat.

    Mr. Scliar's novel Max and the Cats, the story of a Jewish boy and a panther on a lifeboat, was published in 1981.

    Mr. Martel's Life of Pi, the story of an Indian boy and a tiger on a lifeboat, has won this year's Booker Prize.

    Mr. Scliar this week accused Mr. Martel of abusing his "intellectual property." He mused about taking legal action but then decided against it.

    Besides The Lad and the Lion, Burroughs also wrote of a man-animal maritime adventure in his 1914 novel The Beasts of Tarzan. In this story, Tarzan, stranded on an island, survives with the help of a panther and an ape before the group escapes on a boat.

    "It's ridiculous to say you can copyright ideas in literature. What hasn't been said? What hasn't been recycled?" said Bill Hillman, a professor of education at the University of Brandon and a Burroughs expert."Certainly Burroughs came up with just about any combination you could think of with man and beast."

    Burroughs, author of more than 20 Tarzan novels, always maintained that the concept of an original literary idea defied logic.

    "Burroughs himself said that there's nothing new under the sun and the best we can to is put new clothes on old ideas," said George McWhorter, curator of the Burroughs Memorial Collection at the University of Louisville.

    His own blunt admission did not stop the accusations of  plagiarism levelled against Burroughs, whose Tarzan books have been translated into more than 50 languages,  have sold more than 20 million copies and have served as the basis for many movies.

    Some of his contemporaries accused him of  "stealing from Romulus and Kipling,'' Dr. McWhorter said.

    "I guess we should also accuse Kipling of copying Romulus,"  Dr. McWhorter added mockingly.

    Mowgli, Kipling's central character in The Jungle Book,  written in 1894, was raised in the wild by wolves, just like the legendary founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus, who myth says were abandoned as infants and saved by a female wolf.

    Marcus Boon, a professor of contemporary literature at  York University in Toronto, said the spiral of accusations illustrates the absurdity of laying claim to an original idea in literature.

    "These are sort of fundamental images and narratives  within human culture," Dr. Boon said of the image of a person cast adrift with animals.

    Dr. Boon said examples of the "ubiquity of the man-animals-raft image" in literature and film include French author Alfred Jarry's Exploits and Opinions of Dr. Faustroll,  Pataphysician (1898). The story ends with the main character sailing away in a boat with a chattering ape.

    Werner Herzog's 1972 classic movie Aguirre:  Wrath of God, which tells the story of a 16th-century expedition in Latin America, ends with the main character on a boat with monkeys.

    As is common in the literary world, Mr. Martel disclosed long ago that he was inspired by Mr. Scliar's plot in Max and the Cats, translated into English in 1990.  "Books are constantly referencing other books," Dr. Boon said. "I'm sure Scliar's book has resonance with other books."

    Carys Craig, a copyright specialist at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, said the law accepts this long-standing practice.

    "It's essential that people be free to develop upon  and free to share ideas -- and that's a goal of copyright law....
    * * *

    HU'S ON FIRST By James Sherman
    Playwright Jim Sherman wrote this after Hu Jintao was named head of the Communist Party in China.
    (Scene: The Oval Office. Enter the National Security Adviser, Condoleeza Rice.)
    George: Condi! Nice to see you. What's happening?
    Condi: Sir, I have the report here about the new leader of China.
    George: Great. Lay it on me.
    Condi: Hu is the new leader of China.
    George: That's what I want to know.
    Condi: That's what I'm telling you.
    George: That's what I'm asking you. Who is the new leader of China?
    Condi: Yes.
    George: I mean the fellow's name.
    Condi: Hu.
    George: The guy in China.
    Condi: Hu.
    George: The new leader of China.
    Condi: Hu.
    George: The Chinaman!
    Condi: Hu is leading China.
    George: Now whaddya' asking me for?
    Condi: I'm telling you Hu is leading China.
    George: Well, I'm asking you. Who is leading China?
    Condi: That's the man's name.
    George: That's who's name?
    Condi: Yes.
    George: Will you or will you not tell me the name of the new leader of China?
    Condi: Yes, sir.
    George: Yassir? Arafat is in China? I thought he was in the Middle East.
    Condi: That's correct.
    George: Then who is in China?
    Condi: Yes, sir.
    George: Yassir is in China?
    Condi: No, sir.
    George: Then who is?
    Condi: Yes, sir.
    George: Yassir?
    Condi: No, sir.
    George: Look, Condi. I need to know the name of the new leader of China.
                Get me the  Secretary General of the U.N. on the phone.
    Condi: Kofi?
    George: No, thanks.
    Condi: You want Kofi?
    George: No.
    Condi: You don't want Kofi.
    George: No. But now that you mention it, I could use a glass of milk. And then get me the U.N.
    Condi: Yes, sir.
    George: Not Yassir! The guy at the U.N.
    Condi: Kofi?
    George: Milk! Will you please make the call?
    Condi: And call who?
    George: Who is the guy at the U.N?
    Condi: Hu is the guy in China.
    George: Will you stay out of China?!
    Condi: Yes, sir.
    George: And stay out of the Middle East! Just get me the guy at the U.N.
    Condi: Kofi.
    George: All right! With cream and two sugars. Now get on the phone.
    Condi (On the phone): Rice, here.
    George: Rice? Good idea. And a couple of egg rolls, too.
                Maybe we should send some to the guy in China.
                And the Middle East. Can you get Chinese food in the Middle East?

    11 steps to self-help speaking success
    Neil Hrab
    National Post

    My head hurts today. I think it has something to do with the series of self-help seminars I attended last week. The speakers assaulted my brain with non-stop inanities and bromides -- the kind found in the worst sort of high school commencement speeches ("The future is now," etc.). Each seminar consisted of an army of self-help platitudes that laid siege to my grey matter. Each subsequent speaker reinforced the previous speaker's army with fresh battalions.

    In the end, I escaped unscathed -- I don't walk around sounding as if I've swallowed the inexplicably popular Chicken Soup for the Soul series. But unfortunately, several days after the seminars, a Niagara Falls of self-help expressions continues to echo in my skull.

    • "You get rich as you use your mind."
    • "Whatever you are ready for is ready for you."
    • "Clarity is having purpose."
    • "How do you get rich? Find a niche."
    • "How much you breathe in determines how much you breathe out."
    • "Don't think about success. Think about significance."
    • "All we really need to know we can learn from our children."
    Self-help speakers love to speak in platitudes. But platitudes are just part of their act. Although self-help gurus come in all forms -- white, black, female, male, old, young -- each one relies on the same basic components in building their speeches. The following is a list of elements of self-help happy talk that I identified during the seminars. I call it "Neil's 11 Steps for Self-Help Speaking Success."

    1. Tell a joke, any joke. If it's toxically cute, don't worry. Audience members have paid hundreds of dollars to listen to you, so they are going to want to think the joke is funny rather than an insult to their intelligence.

    2. Say something trite about how men and women are different. To make it sound less trite, mention how you interviewed 10,000 married couples in order to discover this fact.

    3. Do you worry that your lack of a graduate degree from a famous university might be hurting your credibility as a peaker? No problem. Put up a quote from Thomas Edison or Jesus or Socrates on a PowerPoint slide. Next, put up a slide that quotes you. The audience will realize you are just as brilliant as those other guys.

    4. Some audience members may be wondering if coming to hear you speak is really worth what they paid. To placate them, talk about how buying a ticket for your speech represents a tremendous moral "choice" and a clear indication that they are ready to make "positive change." You can also flatter them by saying, "What a high-level group we have here today!" That should lay their concerns to rest; they will realize that coming to hear you automatically and painlessly makes them better people.

    5. Repeat something your grandmother/prepubescent son/wife said. Tell everyone how wise it is, even if its profundity isn't readily apparent. Again, people have paid a lot to listen, so they'll want to think it's on par with Plato's writings.

    6. Relate an anecdote about someone famous, like Nelson Mandela. If you can twist it totally out of context to make your point, even better.

    7. In order to introduce the idea that persistence pays off, tell a story about how many publishers rejected your first self-help book manuscript. Don't bother telling the audience an inspiring story about some other person who succeeded in spite of a physical disability or social prejudice; your own lucrative tale of battling with publicists and literary agents to get your best-seller into print is obviously far more interesting than any paraplegic Special Olympian's life experiences.

    8. In a soft voice, talk about a tragedy you've experienced. Quickly move on to another topic, but make a big show of shedding a tear while you do this. The tear reminds the audience how brave you were to make a personal revelation in front of people who have paid to hear you speak. Your listeners won't think for a second that you are being unnecessarily melodramatic or trying to create a phony intimacy with them.

    9. Ask the audience a platitudinous question, such as "What do you want out of life?" Answer your question with a platitudinous response like "love" or "wealth" or "greatness."

    10. Ask the audience members to hug one another or touch each other on the shoulder and say, "You're doing OK." The awkwardness that ensues will make them forget how dumb your last joke was.

    11. Plug the next speaker as "my good friend" or "our good friend." It makes you sound gracious. To make yourself sound even more gracious, make sure you compliment the next speaker's books/tapes/CDs or whatever they peddle. Hopefully, she will do the same for you. But just in case she forgets, you should mention that since "time is short today," you can't get to everything you wanted to cover. Then say that what you wanted to cover is available to the audience in the form of a hugely overpriced tape set -- conveniently on sale in the hall outside the auditorium.

    © Copyright  National Post

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