A Copywriter’s Blog
I wrote a book. Yes, really. Ben Levy 31, March

It’s been five months in the making. Five months of me trying to keep my mouth shut (I failed pretty spectacularly) or at least not mentioning it on the blog until it was a reality (I barely- BARELY- managed that).

But now it’s done. So I can post this:

Picture 7

What? You have read this blog before, right? I mean, I hope you weren’t expecting something more appropriate. Something deep and meaningful and Shakespearean? That’s not really how I roll.

I Have A Dick. Now What? is about all those things that guys should know, but often don’t. The best way to stare at a woman without getting caught. The best methods for hiding porn. And several plans of attack for removing a bra. This book- while addressed to males- has proven to be entertaining to the womenfolk as well, as it peels back the (admittedly shallow) mystery of common male behaviors. To the rest of you- who have ever been caught ogling the fairer sex, have protested to your mother that you don’t know how the Playboys got under your bed, or desperately swore that you’d have that bra unhooked in no time no really you mean it just one second oh thank heaven there it goes- you may want to read this.

Like this blog, it is written by me. Unlike this blog, it’s nearly 50% pictures. A typical page looks like this:

IHADNW_Sample 7

Although it could just as easily look like this:

IHADNW_Sample 9

Like this blog, it is available electronically. Unlike this blog, you can also have it delivered in print form.

If you want more info, you can check out the site here. There’s more sample pages, an “about” section explaining where the idea came from, and even some shirts (there will be more later). There’s also a facebook page here, since I’m told the kids love that. Become a fan, won’t you?

Please help me out by re-tweeting, re-posting, and generally spreading the word to anyone who you think might find this book amusing. And do keep in mind the vast, untapped possibilities represented by offering it as a gag-gift. I mean, that’s the whole idea behind the dedication page:


Next post: My thoughts on just how awesome it is that a no-talent hack like me can publish their own book in the year 2010.

Post Tomorrow Ben Levy 31, March

I’ve got laryngitis and haven’t stopped moving in about two months. I need to take a day. But tomorrow will be one of the most important posts I’ve ever made, so do come back. You won’t want to miss it.

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An Epic of Epic Epicness Ben Levy 25, March

Guys. GUYS. This movie…I just…HOLY. BALLS.

Who do I talk to about making a Nobel Prize for Directing? We really need to make it because the guy responsible for this movie just won it. Also? Plus several hundred points for the tagline. (aka the post title)

I am leaving stupid early Friday to attend PAXEast. If you don’t know what that is, ask the Google. I will return stupid late on Sunday. I will try desperately to post Monday before Passover, but I’m letting you know right now the odds are slim. Look for one on Wednesday or a bit later.

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Take a second to realize just how quickly this digital gaming thing has grown. Before the Atari, there was no “gaming”. The whole concept didn’t exist. Then it became a thing the kids did with their neat little nintendo boxes. Then it was something nerds did who had an easier time interfacing with those boxes than they did women. Then it was something everyone did, as long as they didn’t do it too much, or seem too enthusiastic about it, or played games with words like NFL and NBA in the title.

And then came the Wii and Facebook.

And casual gaming was born.

So now it’s ok, this obsession with digital games. You can admit in public that you enjoy playing them. Terms geeks coined- like RPG, n00b, pwned- these are everyday words now. Which is why you get articles like this one.

The short version is- a professor at Indiana University replaced grades with an RPG system of leveling. He’s observing higher-than-normal interest levels among his students, and a marked increase in the amount of effort put into the class.

If you look at the comments, a lot of people aren’t sure what to think about this. Some think we’re giving too much credit to games. Some think this will only work with a game-related class. Some think this is exactly what schools need and are ready and willing to go to class dressed like an Orc.

I think they’re all missing the point. It’s not about whether or not your class should be a game. It’s about how game mechanics can improve your class.

This quote from the article talks about work, but it applies in the classroom as well:

Many specifics of game design could also be directly applied to the workforce, he said. These included: clearly defining goals for workers; providing incremental rewards; and balancing effort and reward.

Clearly defined goals. In this case the emphasis is on the “clearly”. You know what I always hated about those classes where there’s only a midterm and final? You get two shots. You screw up the first, you’re doomed. It sucks because the rules aren’t explained. Sure you’re told what they are-a big test in the middle and a big test at the end- but you don’t really know what the midterm is like until you see it. It’s technically defined, but not clearly so. Having a chance to see how the teacher thinks in the homework and in smaller tests makes it easier to anticipate and prepare for the huge tests. It’s a time-honored tradition in RPGs to go kill giant rats before you work your way up to dragons. This is part of why.

The balancing of effort and reward. World of Warcraft made infamous an aspect of RPGs called “grinding”. This is the practice of repetitively performing an action in-game until you reap the reward you want. It could be hitting things over the head until you level up, or hitting things over the head until they drop a particular item you’ve been searching for. In most cases it’s monotonous and shoot-yourself-in-the-face boring. So why are so many gamers willing to hit things over the head until their eyes bleed?

Think about it. When was the last time in life that you knew- beyond all shadow of a doubt- that if you do X for long enough, Y will happen? I’ll be good, and good things will happen…usually. Maybe. I hope. I work hard at my job, so I’ll get a promotion…right? I spend hours at the gym, so women will find me more attractive…in theory. Life is uncertain. In World of Warcraft, no matter how many hours it takes, you are certain of one thing- hit enough things on the head, and you’ll get what you want.

If a student tries to pass a test and fails, they failed right? In traditional classes, yes. In a class set up like an RPG, if they fail, they just try again. And again. And again. Until they get it right. Isn’t that what we want our students to do? Teachers out there- tell me this isn’t a fantastic idea. The student will do whatever extra work is necessary because he believes he can succeed if he keeps trying. This is ten times better than the student who shrugs because they failed the unit and resolves to “make it up on the next one”.

Providing incremental rewards. It’s the other thing good about grinding. You do get something along the way. Even if the things you hit in the head take a while to give you a specific item you want, you might level up in the process. Or get a new weapon. Or unlock a new area to explore. In RPGs, almost everything grants you experience, which means that nothing you do ever feels like it’s wasted. In other words, in a class run like an RPG you wouldn’t hear anyone say “why should I read the whole book if all this material won’t be on the test?” Sure it might not be on the test (ie-slay the big dragon) but it might give you another benefit, such as the opportunity for extra credit (side quest).

Games can be won- There’s another aspect of gaming that isn’t mentioned in the article, but I think it might be the best reason of all to turn classes, jobs, and even cancer research into a game: People approach games with the belief that they can win.

Not that it will be easy. Not that they know how. Not even that they will win. But they believe it has been designed in such a way that winning is possible. Whatever the challenge, there is a way to overcome it. They just have to find it.

The enormity of this psychological benefit was shown in an exchange between a reporter and a game developer. The reporter- who clearly thought “game” meant “toy”- asked how anyone could possibly consider a game as an appropriate way to educate children about world hunger and ways to solve it. The developer replied “People approach games with a belief that there is a way to win. That already puts them in a different mindset from 99% of the people who have tackled these problems before.”

That’s huge. Ever read Ender’s Game? If you haven’t, we can’t be friends. So go read it. The rest of you probably just gained a new appreciation for the idea behind that book.

So let’s review shall we? We’re talking about setting up a class where the goals and challenges are clearly defined. Every action is made beneficial for the student in some way- so that they are inspired to take it all in, rather than only those parts they perceive as being required. We’re talking about setting up a psychological environment where students A) believe they are capable of excelling and B) are not just encouraged but rewarded to try repeatedly until they master the lessons.

This isn’t about a generation gap. This is about building a better mousetrap. We stopped teaching in one room school houses because splitting up classes by grade was more effective. Let’s stop grading and start leveling for the same reasons.

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Don’t know if I’ll manage a big post this week. Some major things going on, and I don’t want to discuss them until they’re ready to be discussed. In the meantime, enjoy these images of the birthday present I made The Wife a while back (y’know, when it was her birthday). I think you can see a definite improvement over my first Munny experiment.



More later in the week if I have time.

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Because there’s a chance that one of you may not have seen this. And you all need to.

The rest of you can see it again.

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To the Ladies I Hung Out With at the Club This Weekend,

I’d like to start by saying how much the evening was benefited by your presence. Without you, the gathering would have been designated a “Festival du Sausage”, and I greatly appreciate your help in preventing this. Please understand that the following is meant to be taken as constructive criticism. I hope we can remain friends.

To begin with, I hold you in the highest regard for your efforts to respect the sanctity of my marriage. Women of looser morals might have thought it acceptable to “back up on” me, and I appreciate your decision to give me space. In the future, please know that it is perfectly acceptable to dance while facing me, or to acknowledge my presence. Also, if you wish, you may dance nearer than 10 feet away. I have a wife, not leprosy.

Secondly, I wonder if you haven’t confused the title of “husband” with “priest”? After showing another gentleman “what you’re working with”, you turned and apologized to me. Madam, I took several years of figure study courses at University. Furthermore, I have cable TV. I assure you I was previously aware of the way women can shift the “junk in the trunk” before your display. As we were already maintaining the aforementioned distance of 10 feet between us, I hardly think it was necessary for you to turn and offer your apologies for the behavior. My morals were not offended, and I quite assure you I have no “innocence” left to lose.

Lastly- a minor thing. I hesitate even to mention it. Do you think you could tell your friends “he’s married” without making it sound like a pejorative? I made no judgement upon the fact that you have clearly been “poked” by three-quarters of your facebook friends. Kindly respect my decision to choose a life of monogamy as opposed to drunken walks of shame and frequent tests at the STD clinic.


The Married Guy

Hey, End Bosses!

Just to be clear- that one guy?

That was me.

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Pants. Ben Levy 7, March

My relationship with the word “pants” is surprisingly deep.

Anyone who knows me, who has read my blog, who has overheard me talking, or who has spoken to someone else who fits any of these qualifications, is aware that I have a penchant for the random. For that reason, most of my friends do too. I mean let’s face it, either you roll with the non-sequiturs regarding platypuses platypussies platypie duckbilled mammals and their relevance to the meaning of life, or you don’t.

And so it’s not too surprising that somewhere along the way one of my friends uttered “pantaloons!” as a battle cry, or exclamation, or…well shit, he might have been talking about a particularly tasty slice of pizza. Really, I don’t remember.

But from that point forward, the default answer for silliness in all it’s forms was “Pantaloons”. We were declaring Pantaloons at every opportunity. But before long, it seemed to be lacking something. It was funny, sure, but it was missing a certain immediacy. We needed a word that was equal parts exultation and imprecation. We required a single syllable whose utilitarian randomness was beyond all question. Plus, “pants” is a fairly easy extrapolation.

So, everything became “Pants”. Hit in the shoulder unexpectedly? “Pants!” Just heard a piece of unbelievable news? “Pants.” Want to offer an altogether familiar and yet totally confusing response to whatever was said last in conversation? “Pants.”

And don’t even get me started on how many dead-locked concepting sessions I’ve re-invigorated by suggesting “Pants”. Oh don’t look at me like that. It worked for these guys.

Plus, when The Wife (at the time known as The Fiancee) got me this shirt, I knew I was getting married to the right person.

Photo 59 copy

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The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Tech-Talch – Chatroulette

Oh the spam I’ll get with that headline.

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