How Dumb Does It Get?

Today’s guest post comes from Clyde.

I have hit on a sure-fail marketing scheme, without even participating in a meeting that never ends, well, except for the one in my mind.

I am going to market a set of CD’s called “Sounds to Edit By.” It would hold the following discs, all of which I must confess I own and find perfect for editing:

  • One hour of falling rain with thunder in the distant background.
  • Haydn Symphony 101, “The Clock”
  • “Inner Voices” by R. Carlos Nakai (Navaho flute music)
  • Haydn Symphony 94, “The Surprise” (I keep missing the surprise)
  • Gregorian Chant
  • “In Concert: Credence Clearwater Revival.” (This is to clear the palette.)
  • Plainsong Chant
  • “Enya” (I borrow it from Sandy) (No, really; it’s hers, not mine; really.)
  • “Canyon Consort” by Paul Winter
  • One hour of ocean waves

I realize that my potential audience is small, maybe just me and Robin, Bonnie L., and an astounding number of my former students who are editors and writers of various forms.
But who would have thought there was such a large consumer base for high-priced coffee that, to me, tastes much like battery acid! Or that people would buy bottles of water at 10,000 times the cost of a glass from their tap! Or that karaoke would still be slowly lingering to its eagerly anticipated death! So maybe my idea would work. A post script: I would add to my box set one last CD I don’t own containing only “Amazing Grace” played on bagpipes.

Browsing pointlessly in our pointless public library yesterday, I spotted a book title that jumped out at me: “Florida for Dummies.” Go ahead, write your own punchline.

But there was a success I would have never foreseen, the Dummy Books. Do they hold meetings trying to analyze their potential audience:

  • “Someone who listens to Limbaugh?”
  • “Well, no, not that dumb; has to be able to read.”
  • “Voted for Sarah Palin?’
  • “And watches ‘Dancing wit the Star’.”
  • “And is a NASCAR fan.”
  • “A Cubs fan for sure.”
  • “No, a Yankees fan.”

Maybe they just envision Homer Simpson and Jessica Simpson.

But more power to them; not that we English teachers would ever approve of writing concisely and precisely, using graphic elements effectively. I have used a couple of the books, maybe three or four, to quickly overview a topic. I thought of some I could write:

  • “Intelligence for Dummies.” But on which end of the spectrum am I an expert?
  • “Editting for Dummys”
  • “Left-Handedness for Dummies,” meaning for right-handed people.
  • “Baboons for Dummies”
  • “Lefse and Cardboard for Dummies” (How to distinguish between them)
  • “Living with Germans for Dummies” (And who else would?)
  • “Michele Bachmann for Michele Bachmann”

What Dummies book do you need?
What Dummies book would you write?

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84 thoughts on “How Dumb Does It Get?”

    1. You can write the sleep book for dummies on the nights when you can’t sleep, Clyde. You can claim to be the right person to write this book because you have spent a lot of time trying to get to sleep.

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  1. Good morning. Good topic and very humorous presentation, Clyde. I have several of the computer books for dummies and have made some use of a couple of them. The other ones have not been used very much. I did put a fair amount of effort into mastering the info in the dummy book that covers all you need to know to pass a test to be a computer technician. I finally gave up on that book, probably because that really wasn’t what I wanted to do.

    I thought about writing a dummy book for gardeners and then discovered that one had already been published. That’s the only one that I have ever considered writing. I would like to write a book about the people who do seed saving, but that wouldn’t be a dummy book. I know some of the members of the Seed Saver’s Exchange who do a lot of seed saving. They are an unusual group of people and I think a book about them would be interesting and informative for any one who likes gardening.

    How about a dummy book about dummy books. The dummy book to top all dummy books.

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    1. tim. that would be the dummy book that answers the question: “How dumb can you get”. I’m not sure it would be a best seller. Maybe it should be sold as a self help book for dummies who are afraid they are getting too smart.

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  2. how to text and tweet instead of being there to experience the moment for dummies.
    i suppose writers and observers ofthe human condition have always had this challange but i think todayit may be at epidemic levels with people who dont chronicle but rather blather on. and in the past you filed it away and maybe took notes for you private writing time. today junk that goes into the vapors is monumental. information age my patoot

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  3. the illustration is priceless. chad hangin is missing the underwear accent above the hanging pants. gotta love it. dizzy worlld, nevergrades, very cleaver there clyde. the gulf of cuba is a big place.

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    1. Step 1: Wad sheet into a ball.
      Step 2: Toss onto floor in corner of closet.
      When I was about 17 or 18 my folks went out of town for a weekend and I bought myself a waterbed.
      They didn’t really care but Mom said she wasn’t going to wash my sheets anymore then. (Waterbed sheets have deep pockets on the mattress bottom and the top sheet is actually sewed to the bottom sheet at the foot).
      Well, I simply didn’t wash the sheets for a year or so. I was 18 and a guy; what did I care about clean sheets.

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  4. I think Teenage Daughters for Dummies would sell like hotcakes. Suzuki String Parenting for Dummies would have been very useful when our daughter started the violin. I would buy the Fitted Sheet Folding book.

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    1. did suzuki with son on cello way back when and mac phail had a two or three session required pre sign up class before you signed up letting you know your role as suzuki parent. good idea.
      teenage daughters for dummies is one id buy but i dont think i could read it fast enough to work on the issue of the moment.

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  5. What I could use is Home Repair for Dummies. I have two such books, but they are frauds; they are actually Home Repair for Smartypants Guys Who Already Own All Those Damn Special Tools. Alas, I’m in the second week of a nonfunctioning toilet, all because of my lifelong curse as the only man on earth who cannot make a Korky Flapper behave.

    Here is a little quiz, baboons. Who knows what the original Dummies book was about? I think I know. No fair looking it up on Wikipedia.

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    1. I think I have done just about everything you can do to try to get my toilet to flush properly. I probably would at least be a good resource for anyone who wants to write a dummy book about his. I have actually figured out how to get my toilet to work, but I don’t know if this repair will continue to work. At Home Depot you can buy an alternative to the flapper that is a piston instead of a flap and is operated by a push button instead of a leaver attached to a chain. This solves all of the problems I have had with flappers that don’t close and chains that get tangled. After installing this device I found that I also needed to adjust another device that controls the level water in the tank to bring the water up to a higher level. With these two changes I now have a toilet that almost always flushes everything down on the first try.

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    2. This is my favorite home repair book – it covers the basic stuff in easy-to-understand steps. It may or may not be useful with your flapper however (I gave up on mine and replaced it with a “water saving” doohickus that at least keeps the toilet from running constantly). But for my money, “Dare to Repair” is about the best for the average home owner. Tells you what tools you will need, even – all of them.

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      1. I think the “water saving” doohickus might be the same as the piston style one I am using. It has a button for low flush and another for high flush and I always need the high flush.

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        1. Sounds like the gizmo I put in – I pretty much always use the high flush, too. I can’t say that I’m really saving water on the flush, but probably am since I’m not having water run constantly through the bowl.

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      1. Now I am short on salad plates and dining room chairs. We are having 10 people over for Thankgsgiving dinner. Daughter and best friend will sit, as they always have, on the piano bench. Over the years our oak dining room chairs have succumbed to the low humidity out here, and I only have 4 left. I think I will have to clean up the deck chairs and haul them inside.

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  6. In the 70s, the precursor to Dummy books were what we called the Idiot Manuals. I had the vw bug version of the one tim mentioned – the entire title was: “How to keep your Volkswagen alive: a Manual of Step-by-Step Procedures for the Compleat Idiot.”

    I think I bought it just because the title was so cool.

    Will think on this and come back later… Fun post, Clyde!

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    1. that was a great read and offered compassion as i was banging my knuckles under the car while k=not having the slightest idea what i was doing under there

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      1. There were a lot of guides to doing various things back in the late 60s and early 70s that some of those “old” hippies wrote. One of the books that I bought back then was a very good bicycle repair book for people who wanted to do their own repairs. Another one was a guide to home brewing. I did make some batches of beer that I was more or less able to drink. I also made use of a book on doing macrame back in those days.

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        1. That reminds me of all the back issues of Mother Earth News we collected and kept for a couple of decades until we finally accepted that we weren’t ever really going back to the land and didn’t really need to know how to build a log cabin from scratch. We also had a set of the Foxfire books. I can’t recall much of what they contained, but I think of them now as “Hog Slaughtering for Dummies”.

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        2. Clyde, I think you probably knew how to do many of those things in MEN from being raised on a small farm where a lot of the food you ate was produced on the farm.

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  7. I need a generic, all-inclusive “Technology for Dummies” book. I’m downright tech-phobic. At this point, I have two unused Kindles a year old; a 4-year old GPS system still in a box; an unused DVD player; a CD player and no idea how to make it be a radio; an external hard drive to back up files (5 years old); only scant skills at fully using my MacBook; and no idea how to take a picture with my basic, flip-top cell phone. My tech-anxiety has spread to include virtually ANY device with an instruction booklet longer than 2 pages. An Ipad or Smart phone would trigger a total breakdown for sure.

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    1. My erstwife was famous for her great intelligence and her equally impressive inability to handle technology with more moving parts than a hammer. She was at the booth of a bookseller in an international bookselling convention talking about how modern instruments are badly made.

      “Look!” she said. “Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. Look at this damned calculator. It doesn’t even have a display screen. I can’t get the effin thing to do the simplest calculation!” In horror, her friend at the booth said, “Kathe, that’s the TV clicker!”

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  8. OT: Some time about 1980 I was asked to be the head football coach at the high school where I taught and once played. It came out of left field for a variety of strange reasons.Very few people know this, so keep it quiet. I briefly flirted with the idea, thinking I would coach in the style of a man who has long interested me John Gagliardi, who just announced he is retiring from St. John’s in Collegeville. He was a true baboon, swimming upstream all 60 years he coached there (he is 86, winningest coach on college history, four national titles). He allowed no whistles in practice, his players never tackled in practice or took much other contact (the one thing that most interested me), he never had his team do calesthenics (research says he is right), his quarterback called his own plays, and he played the game out the way it was going, which gives him his one bad knock because his teams would run up high scores on weaker opponents. If the weather was bad, he called off practice. I had three former students who played for him, who would tell great stories about him. His players were students and young men first and athletes only secondarily.
    When you compare John Gagliardi to the current state of big time college athletics, such as the Big Ten conference trying to take over the whole world, you see how right he was and how wrong they were. He is a baboon.

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    1. they are saying mike grant buds kid eden prairies coach wants the job. i hope he doesnt get it. he is not a baboon. he is the most me me me guy i have ever met. a total turd.

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  9. Clyde, I love this. Your examples of “for Dummies” books are superb. I especially like “Left-Handedness for Dummies.” That made me laugh. Too bad I couldn’t have given that book to some teachers (side note: my mom was very good about understanding my need for things like left-handed scissors, but since I cut more paper at school than at home and there were no left-handed scissors there, I learned to use scissors right-handed. To this day, I can’t use scissors left-handed).

    I had to read your post 3 times before I noticed the “Editing for Dummys.” I commend you on that. Very cleaver!

    While I would have a need for a great many of the “for Dummies” books mentioned, and am actually a fan of the series (I like the writing that is clear and precise, with effective graphic elements), I can only think of one that I would actually write:

    Apostrophes for Dummies

    or maybe: Apostrophe’s for Dummie’s

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    1. My first grade teacher, a throw-back old woman who was otherwise a good teacher, tried to convert me to right-handed. When my mother found out, she raised the school roof, which was not a normal behavior for her. I use right handed scissors in my left-hand because that was the only choice I really had not being at all able to use my right hand for anything. Cannot use left-handed ones either. I do not even see what the issue is with can-openers, but I have several left-handed friends who are grateful to have acquire a left-handed can opener.

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  10. Some days I would like a “Walking for Dummies” – I’m a little too good at walking off the sides of my shoes and almost dumping myself over.

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  11. How about “Supermarket Tabloids for Dummies”? I just got back from the store and there seems to be a great many reality show celebrities with whom I am supposed to be on a first name basis, yet I feel I don’t really know them at all…

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    1. I feet the same way when I look at those tabloids. The celebrities’ raison d’etre is simply because they’re beautiful and they’re on some trashy reality show that I never, ever watch. They have no talent, no soul and their show ratings go up the snarkier they get (I imagine). I’ve never understood the pull of reality shows. So … Bill, I think we’re better off not knowing them and I do not miss their presence in my life.

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  12. I could probably write something about :Organizing for Dummies”, but I can only organize things, not my time, so it’ll never happen. Only writing I get done is here, and that’s because there’s often a deadline.

    What I need is “Facebook for Dummies” and several of the same things Crystalbay mentioned.

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  13. Greetings! I wish I could write “Real Nutrition For Dummies and Doctors” — that’s about the only thing I have real knowledge about. I could use a cookbook for dummies, but I think I found it about 7-8 years ago. It’s called “Cheap. Fast. Good.” and it’s my go-to cookbook for most everyday meals. It also has simple instructions on menu planning, basic make-ahead recipes, making meatloaf, making chicken stock, poaching chicken thighs and cutting up the meat to freeze for recipes during week, etc. Great stuff to help me save money and make good, simple meals in a one skillet. From there, I finally learned to branch out and try other more demanding recipes. My favorite site for healthy meals is http://www.EatingWell.com I certainly never learned to cook from my dear mother.

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        1. Ba-da boom! Very funny, Clyde. I’m embarrassed to admit it took me a minute to get it. And yes, most parts are edible.

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