Where would we be without rules?
There are rules of grammar, essential rules of etiquette, rules governing mandatory health insurance, after the housing collapse-there are now new rules of real estate; Baseball, our National Pastime, will likely approve new rules for the 2014 season; even our favorite social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter have their own set of rules.
So if you are one of those individuals who live by the rules and die by the rules-you’ll probably want to dip into Paul Dickson’s new book: ``The Official Rules: 5,427 Laws, Principles, and Axioms to Help You Cope with Crisis, Deadlines, Bad Luck, Rude Behavior, Red Tape, and Attacks by Inanimate Objects.’’
Beginning in 1976, for reasons known only to himself, Mr. Dickson inserted dividers into a shoebox and started gathering rules that govern our twisted universe, from the ridiculous to the sublime on small sheets of paper. This new enterprise of collecting rules on everything and anything imaginable under the sun was given the flamboyant title: ``The Murphy Center for the Codification of Human and Organizational Law,’’a spin-off, of course, on Murphy’s Law (``Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong" ). Dickson took the liberty of appointing himself its first director; and beginning in 1989, he was promoted to ``Director for Life.’’
Over the decades, this Yonkers, New York native began collecting contributions from journalists, self-proclaimed prophets and philosophers, along with everyday observers of life’s little foibles from sea to shining sea. Of particular help to him have been writer Fred Dryer, Wall Street Journal columnist, Alan Otten, Jack Womeldorf of the Library of Congress; Robert Specht of the RAND Corp; the John Erhman file at Stanford University, and the University of Arizona Computing Center.
Armed with two dozen shoeboxes and two file drawers, in 1978, the Center published its first book: ``The Official Rules’’ alphabetically arranged with special sections. The book took off like a Boeing jumbo jet.
Within just a few months of its release, thousands of letters from readers, listing their personal maxims, rules, principles etc., numbering about 5,000, came pouring in. With so much new material, Dickson turned out a number of magazine articles, including 10 for the Washingtonian magazine between 1978 and 1996. And in 1989, another edition hit the bookstores: ``The New Official Rules.’’
At the dawn of the 21st century, the responses Dickson was receiving continued to be overwhelming, especially in the computer age-when swarms of letters turned into a mountain of emails.
So as we cope with the many trials and tribulations of a new millineuium with its fresh set of challenges and new obstacles and with an eye toward reminding ourselves, now and again, that not everyone’s perfect (even Betty Crocker burned a few cakes) , Dickson has published yet another updated edition of ``The Official Rules.’’
Paul Dickson should be no stranger to readers, especially if you’re a baseball fan. ``The Dickson Baseball Dictionary,’’ which has been published in three editions (1989, 1999, 2009) was described by the Wall Street Journal in 2010 as one of the six best baseball books ever published. In addition to publishing scores of books on baseball and 20th century history, Dickson has authored more than 45 nonfiction books, including: `` Drunk: The Definitive Drinker's Dictionary'', ``Journalese: A Dictionary for Deciphering the News'', ``Slang: A Topical Dictionary of Americanisms’ ‘and ``Toasts: Over 1,500 of the Best Toasts, Sentiments, Blessings, and Graces.''
In 2012 Dickson was awarded the Henry Chadwick Award from the Society for Baseball Research (SABR) for his lifetime achievements as a baseball researcher and scholar; and in 2011, he was the recipient of the Tony Salin Award from the Baseball Reliquary for his contributions to the preservation of the history of the game.
A founding member and former president of Washington Independent Writers and a member of the National Press Club, Dickson lives in Garrett Park, Maryland with his wife Nancy who works as his first line editor, and financial manager.
So to give you a sense of some of the many gems tucked between the covers of Dickson’s ``Official Rules’’, I listed some which caught my eye:
- Adam’s Political Discovery: ``Practical politics consist of ignoring facts.’’
-Historian Henry Adams.
- Armor’s Axiom of Morality: ``Virtue is the failure to achieve vice.’’
-John C. Armor, Baltimore, Maryland.
- Berra’s Law: ``You can observe a lot by watching.’’
- The City News Motto: ``If your mother says she loves you, check it out.’’
-Long established motto of Chicago’s City News Bureau, organized a century ago by several newspaper publishers and closed in 2005. It was known for its demanding training of young reporters, including Mike Royko and Seymour Hersh.
- Cook’s Rule: ``All politics is local, except when it isn’t.’’
-Charlie Cook, Editor and Publisher of the ``Cook Political Report.’’
- Crisp’s Creed: ``Don’t keep up with the Joneses; drag them down, it’s cheaper.’’
-Quentin Crisp: from Richard Isaac, M.D., Toronto, Canada.
- Dickens Discovery on Justice: ``If there were no bad people, there would be no good lawyers.’’
- Dirksen’s Three Laws of Politics: 1.) ``Get elected.’’ 2.) ``Get re-elected.’’ 3.) ``Get even.’’
-Senator Everett Dirksen, U.S. Senator from Illinois.
- Gill’s Law of Life’s Highway: ``The road to success is always under construction.’’
- (Heard by Tom Gill).
- Sally’s First Law: ``10 minutes of eating equals one week of dieting.’’
-(From the Sally Forth comic strip of January 9, 1993).
- Tom Jones’s Law: ``Friends may come and go but enemies accumulate.’’
-Dr. Thomas Jones, president of the University of South Carolina.
- Truman’ s Law: ``If you can’t convince them, confuse them.’’
-President Harry S. Truman
- Twain’s Warning: ``Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.’’
-Samuel Clemens quoted in Richard Lederer’s column, Concord Monitor, November 18, 1985.
Bill Lucey's Proverbial Bill of Rights: 1.) ``'Tis impossible to be sure of any thing, but Death, Taxes, and a new Reality Show.'' 2.) ``He who hesitates is last.'' 3.) ``A journey of a thousand miles begins at Terminal 1, Boarding Area B, Gate 20 of United Airlines.'' 4.) ``A fool and his money are soon partying to the wee hours of the morning.'' 5.) ``If at first you don’t succeed-pack up your tent and quit.’’ 6.) ``No news is either good news or a sure sign your local newspaper just folded.’’
December 8, 2013