Thursday, October 28, 2010

In Absentia

Next Tuesday, this will be you. Not in the metaphorical Christine O'Donnell, I'm-you-but-I'm -really-not-you, hocus-pocus kind of way. I mean this will literally be you.

Getting up early before work, skipping breakfast so you can get to the polling place, and standing on an excruciating long line, wedged between a 19-year old woman who won't(correction: can't) get off her new Droid phone and a 58-year old plumber who has already smoked a pack and a half of cigarettes before 8:30 AM and has the clothing stench to prove it.

The line will move slow. Achingly slow. So slow you'll be thinking about a thousand other things you'd rather be doing. Having your teeth cleaned with a dull scraping tool will be near the top of that list.

And throughout it all, you'll be trying to keep your mind straight about your selections. Oh sure, governor, senator, district attorney, those are the easy ones. No, you'll be fiddling around with the very confusing Propositions which seem to be written by the birthers of democracy -- the Greeks.

"Let's see, Prop 63, repealing the ban that overturns an earlier measure that allows oil companies to contest the local governments ability to pass legislation regarding the imposition and/or the elimination of additional taxes per the earlier-passed Proposition 62."

But it's all worthwhile, right?

My wife contends, "I'll stand in a line a mile long just to cancel out your vote." Of course, now with my mixed about Republicans, Democrats, Tea Partiers, Coffee Partiers, Greens and Reds, she has no idea how I'm voting.

Actually, I should use the past tense, because the truth is I've already voted. Through the magic of absentee balloting I've already exercised my civic responsibility. I did it at home, in my comfy sweat pants, and with all the pertinent research necessary to make an informed decision at my beck and call.

I'm a firm believer in absentee balloting. In fact I wish they'd extend the concept of not having to show up and mailing it in to include 'absentee working', 'absentee Department of Motor Vehicle registration', and, as I acquaint myself with the painful life as a father of two teenage daughters, 'absentee parenting'.






Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Unhappy Horse

The universe works in very, very strange ways.

Yesterday I wrote about my dad's ill-fated dairy farm in upstate NY. Of course the farm wasn't his only investment. He also bought a limited partnership in a shopping mall in Shelton, Connecticut.

And that's where today's post takes us.
Oddly enough, it too involves farm animals.

Pictured above is Marian Weigel. He was arrested recently in Shelton. Apparently Mr. Weigel's neighbor had a horse that was scared by a loud noise. And in a generous act of animal husbandry, he went over to comfort that horse and inadvertently stuck his fingers in the horse's vagina.

When told of her son's amorous adventure with the horse, Marian's 83-year old mother replied, "what's the matter with you, you couldn't find a nice chicken?"

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Mooooooo

Yesterday, my good friend Laura told me she had received a catalogue in the mail from some Heifer organization. She's an art director so she gets weird stuff from any company with a computer and a laser color printer.

Heifer is not a word you hear everyday. And as Laura reminded me it's not a word any woman wants to hear at all.

But it conjured up an old memory that quite frankly I hadn't thought about for a long, long time.

Years ago, my dad and a friend went in on a dairy farm in upstate NY, near Sarasota Springs. Though a skilled CPA, he had terrible luck picking investments. My dad was the anti-Warren Buffet. When he called me to tell he bought the farm I thought my inheritance had literally bought the farm.

A Bronx-born tough guy who could handle himself on the streets, he didn't know the difference between a Holstein and a Jersey. In fact if you had asked him, I'm pretty sure he'd tell you a Jersey Cow came from Newark.

Nevertheless the dairy farm served its purpose. As my dad explained, it was a tax shelter. A device to write off additional income expenses. So the more expenses he could write off as a loss, the better.

I never mastered the confusing terminology and practices of modern accounting, but if losing money was good thing, my dad's ill-fated dairy farm was a raging success.




Monday, October 25, 2010

Home Field Advantage


More specifically at 1:24 on the video, the yellow box behind the old red Datsun was home for close to 6 years.
And actually if I'm to be completely accurate, that was just one of my offices.
I've officially done three stints at Chiat/Day (I prefer the old nomenclature) in the course of the last 20 years. And I had several offices throughout the 'city'.

I loved working in this building, but not for the obvious reasons.

Yes the place is full of architectural eye candy but to a luddite like myself that wears off after a week. Besides, there isn't enough recycled cardboard furniture or post-modern art in the world to take the sting out of a numbskull client rejecting the career-changing brilliance of one of your ideas.

No, my love for this office was purely pragmatic.

It's located 1/2 mile from my brother's condo complex where I used to swim at lunchtime.
It has its own cafe with a wide selection of high protein foods.
Best of all, it's only 3.5 miles from my house in Culver City, enabling me to refrain from public restrooms and providing me a convenient alternative option when it became necessary to "let the brown bear out of the cage."

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A death on Wall Street

A couple of weeks ago it was reported that the man who bought the Segway company died after he fell off a cliff on his Segway. Naturally this news spread like wildfire all over the internet because it was, well, funny.

The man's death might have been ironic, but it wasn't deserving.

Unlike the case of the Angeleno who, while on oxygen therapy (most likely at taxpayer expense) could not go without a cigarette. The lit coffin nail ignited the oxygen tank causing a fire at his downtown Wall Street apartment, which happened to be a tax-funded halfway house for people trying to get back on their feet.

The resulting fire made this cigarette his last cigarette.
It also made this man's Darwinian demise darkly humorous. But unlike the British cliff diver, I would argue this nicotine-addicted cretin had it coming to him.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Craig's Listless

There was a time when I swore by Craig's List. I'd put up a photo of something I was selling, crank out some snappy copy, hit the submit button and within seconds, literally seconds, my phone would start ringing.

I could never attribute that kind of success to my photography skills.
Nor could I attribute it to stellar copy I might have written, my sagging career as a copywriter would attest to that.
So clearly, the power of Craig's List is Craig's List.

But not anymore. Last week I advertised this brand new, box-sealed, 8G Apple iPod Touch at the ridiculously low price of $150. They retail for $200. And my phone did not ring once. There was an unidentified caller from the 818 area code but that turned out to be a salesman for vinyl replacement windows.

You may be wondering why I'm selling a new iPod or why I don't just return it to the apple store for a refund? Actually you're probably not wondering either of those two things because you've got more important things on your mind.

Well, the iPod was free with the purchase of a new desktop computer. And coming from a family that would hoard little packets of sweet sauce from every visit to a Chinese restaurant, I wasn't about to turn down a free iPod. But, like the packets of Chinese sweet sauce, I've got more iPods than I know what to do with.

So, in recognition of your loyal readership, I'm offering this snazzy piece of electronic wizardry to the first person that offers me $100. I know, I know, why don't I just give the iPod away for free?

Because even though we fight in the same weight class, I'm not Oprah.
That's why.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Missed the shot

We had our nephew Jack visit for the weekend. Naturally, a trip to the Los Angeles Zoo was in order. As we passed by the large game, gorillas, hippos, giraffes, the only animals a healthy
2- year old boy would be interested in, I was reminded of poor career choice I had made a long, long time ago.

Unlike the kids today who graduate from some hot shot ad school on Sunday and expect to be a Creative Director by Thursday, I came through the ranks with this odd notion of paying one's dues. That meant crappy jobs at crappy agencies working for crappy bosses who were all too happy to shovel the crappy assignments to crappy know-nothing kids.

One of those crappy jobs was at Bear Advertising. Or as one of the more jaded senior guys with one foot already out the door told me, "Welcome to Barely Advertising." And he was right. This was an agency that had a plethora of fishing and hunting equipment accounts. I didn't come from a fishing and hunting background but I was eager (read stupid) and willing to learn.

One of the first things I learned was that most the rifle advertising produced at Barely Advertising looked like the photo above. A hot chick holding a large calibre weapon standing over a recently dead animal. It was a formula that worked well for them and I was expected to follow that formula.

The account executive who was showing me the ropes also offered to show me something I hadn't expected. He brought me to the basement of Barely Advertising and invited me to pore through the files kept in ancient green steel file cases. There, he showed me the extra pictures from the photo shoots. The pictures that didn't make it into the ads. There was the hot model and the large rifle but the dead animal was missing. And so were the clothes on the model.

Following my first week at Barely Advertising I decided I'd better acquaint myself with the intricacies of the hunting and fishing world. So I booked myself a 4-hour fishing expedition on a party boat leaving Malibu that Saturday. It was actually fun. And informative. And altogether pleasant except for the communal gutting station at the back of the boat. That was quite nasty.

Eager to demonstrate my enthusiasm, that Monday morning I told the owners of the agency of my weekend adventure. They snickered and dismissed my outing in the most shocking manner, "A party boat in Malibu?" they said, "that's not fishing, that's n*gg*r fishing."

Really? I thought, stunned beyond belief.

I wondered how the bosses were going to react when I had to request that Friday off for Rosh Hoshanah. But I didn't have to wonder too long.

Because Tuesday I didn't show up for work.
Nor did I show up on Wednesday.
Or any other day after that.

Now in retropsect, I wish I had handled it differently. I would've handed the boss a letter. He would've opened it in my presence and said, "what's this?"

"That's my resignation and two weeks notice." I would've replied.

"But the paper is blank."

"That's right, "I would've said, "I didn't think white trash like yourself were worth the effort. That's how we cheap Jews roll."

Damn you retrospect, damn you.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Cork it, Rabbi

I often rail against Muslim clergy who remain silent in the face of atrocities committed by Muslim extremists. Today I take issue with the furry folks from my own religion.

If you've been following the news, you know there's a big mid-term election coming up. In my former home state of NY, a Sicilian Neanderthal, Carl Paladino, is running for the governor's office. And to score points with the Orthodox Jewish community, Carl spoke at a Brooklyn synagogue and spewed some pretty hateful things about the gay community.

Following a public shaming in the media, Carl put out some half hearted apologies. Perhaps someone in his campaign office ran the numbers and saw that gays outnumber Orthodox Jews by the millions.

While Carl may have seen the error of his ways, Yehudi Levin, the rabbi who invited him to speak has not. He followed Carl's apology with some hateful vitriol of his own. Worse, he cited some Old testament scripture, posturing his remarks as being representative of Judaism.

They are not.
At least not the Judaism I, and the majority of Jews, subscribe to.

In fact, just this week we received a touching letter from our Cantor, who is openly gay. He reached out to teenagers in the congregation who might be the possible target of gay bullying. He recounted the story of his youth and urged teens to be brave with the comforting thought that "It Gets Better."

I'm hoping our Cantors next letter goes to Yehudi Levin who apparently has never met a kosher meal he didn't like. Because it won't get better until douchebags like the rabbi sit down and shut the hell up.




Thursday, October 14, 2010

The case against Flash

As my wife will tell you, I bring a scary commitment to my life as a professional curmudgeon. I've written letters to CEO's about anything and everything. From poor customer service to shoddy product design. Today I had a phone chat with my fishmonger about the less-than-satisfactory cut of my salmon steaks.

While I like to think I do a damn fine job with my letter writing, the sad truth is I will never reach the pop culture hero status as the nameless fellow who flew Continental airlines and occupied Seat 29E.

If you've never read about his exploits, I urge you take the time and read of his ordeal (see the link above). In the history of airline complaint letters, his soars above all the rest. Not only is his command of the English language stunning, yet simple, he propels the reader further into his woe with sparse, yet telling, line drawings.

At the end of this masterpiece I felt as if I had taken the flight with Seat 29E. As if I were on the other side of the fuselage in Seat 29B.

As I was tracking down the link to the pdf of of this letter, I came across something disturbing. A flash video rendition of the letter, that while high on gimmickry and visual stimulation, does nothing, in fact weakens the purity and rage of the original complaint.

See for yourself at: http://vimeo.com/682711

It amply demonstrates how technology can sap the art out of something so pure and powerful. And it symbolizes the philosophical battle between the new practitioners of media and old school people like myself.

If I were the Seat 29E guy and I saw this Flash piece of trash, I'd be really mad.
In fact, I'd be tempted to write a letter.




Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Not green with envy

One of the great things about working at a place like Chiat/Day is the opportunity to encounter truly talented people. Artistic people whose insight and ability to tap into the human condition far exceed the confines of advertising.

Early in my career, I met Hillary Jordan, an exceptional writer who left advertising to become a full time novelist. Her book Mudbound has won several awards and earned highly critical acclaim.

Another novelist to have passed through the halls of Chiat is Kathy Hepinstall. She has three published books. Not only am I thoroughly impressed with the quantity of her writing, the quality is not bad either. Kathy is a real writer. She uses complex sentences, metaphors, similes, even subtext. You'd be hard-pressed to look at anything I've written and find subtext.

And of course there's April Winchell, who has just published her hilarious book Regretsy. While her book doesn't stand as any great literary achievement it does remind me how much funnier she is than me.

Suffice to say, all this success has left me feeling quite jealous.

But then there's Nigel Williams. I worked alongside Nigel a long time ago. He was an Art Director at the time. But now he has written a book. You may recognize him from the TV infommercials hawking his book The Green Millionaire.

The website describes the book as a bestseller which strikes me as ironic since he gives the book away for free. And therein lies the catch. I did a little digging and discovered the Green Millionaire is nothing more than a come-on designed to put consumers on the hook for a magazine subscription they cannot cancel.

Currently it's in the allegation stage and in the hands of the courts and the Better Business Bureau. Nevertheless it is a little upsetting, because I like to think of Nigel as a decent guy and not someone who would scam his way to wealth.

Professional envy can have its ups and downs. I may never write anything meaningful or worthwhile, but at least I'll have shared some laughs along the way. And in the morning I can wake up and look myself in the mirror.

I won't like what I see, but that's more about what I'm eating not what I'm writing.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Found My Inner Magellan

As many readers of roundseventeen know I am obsessed with mathematics. At one time in my life I even considered a career in Math. Perhaps as an engineer. Or as a math teacher. Or both.
But, as irony would have it, there's no money in Math. The numbers simply didn't work out. So I ditched Calculus and Education for a field in which I could really make a difference in the world -- Advertising.

Nevertheless, I still love math (as does my oldest daughter who despite being in 9th grade is studying 10th grade honors Geometry. You'll have to excuse my kvelling.)

Today, as logged my latest 3 mile run into my journal, it occurred to me that I have been running steadily for the last 26 years. As many of my neighbors can attest, I am faithful to the discipline. I'm often stopped at the supermarket by complete strangers, "Hey you're that mustachioed guy I always see running in Culver City."

26 years equals a lot of miles. How many, I thought.

Here's how it breaks out: I average 3 miles a day, 6 days a week. Mind you when I was training for marathons or triathlons, I logged considerably more miles. But then I also have to subtract miles for vacations, illness, business travel or days I was simply to hung over to slip into my Dolphin running shorts (never a pretty picture).

18 miles a week X 52 weeks a year = 936 miles per year.
936 miles per year X 26 years = 24, 336 miles.

The circumference of the Earth is 24,901 miles. Which means in approximately 6 more months I will have circled the planet.

In 1522, Ferdinand Magellan completed the first circumnavigation of the Earth. It took him 3 years to complete the journey. And actually, according to Wikipedia, he was killed in the Battle of Mactan in the Philippines and never literally accomplished the task.

So barring any unforeseen tragedy, I will achieve what Magellan could not.
And I'm not on a boat.


Monday, October 11, 2010

Brett Favre, Brett Favre, Brett Favre

Who is that guy in the pickup truck delivering an oh-so-natural testimonial about his Real. Comfortable. Jeans.?

If you're a football fan, you know it's Brett Favre, the should've-retired-a-year ago quarterback of the Minnesota Vikings. But if you didn't recognize the grizzled, greying 40-year old, well the folks who put this lame excuse for a commercial together are more than happy to identify the geezer.

Not only is Brett willing to shill on behalf of Wrangler he's given them an autograph. And to make sure you see that autograph, the Wrangler marketing genii have sandwiched his autograph between two supers.

On top you have the all caps version that simply reads BRETT FAVRE. And below the autograph, a smaller super in the initial cap version, that reads Brett Favre for Wrangler Jeans.

That's an awful lot of Brett Favre for one frame of film.

Which naturally begs the question: If I, the jeans-wearing consumer do not recognize Brett right away and I need the supers to identify the spokesmouth, why would I care what brand of pants he chooses to wear?

Moreover, even if I do know who he is, why should I care?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Revelations


Two weeks I recounted the story of the freaky Jesus painting I had discovered in Littlerock, CA.
The imagery of the painting had been gnawing at me, so in what can only described a foolish flight of fancy, I filled my travel mug up with some dark Columbian Roast coffee and made the 90-minute trip to the Pearblossom Highway.

I returned to Mica's Restaurant, home of the High Desert Pork Burrito and entered into some serious negotiation with the painting's owner -- Mica.

She wanted $100 for the Jesus in a Jesus painting, but I Jewed her down to 75. (Oh come on I had to use that particular phrase. On the delicious irony scale of one to ten, that's an 11.)

Upon the advice of my buddy Paul, I also took time to visit Charlie Brown's Farms in Littlerock, a fascinating store with all manner of tchotchke. In fact, I spent 2 jaw-dropping hours combing the store --actually it's more like 6-7 tiny stores cobbled together under some jerry-rigged aluminum roofing.

That's when I ran across this interesting assortment of World War II memorabilia:

From all accounts these were actual medals worn by actual Nazis. I could feel the hairs on my back rising.

I didn't buy anything from behind the locked glass display. But like the painting, these badges of butchery are gnawing at me as well. And given my impulsive inclinations, who knows, I may be back in Littlerock in the very near future.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Suck it Sanchez

Last week CNN fired one of its anchors Rick Sanchez, after he had made some disturbing anti-Semitic remarks regarding Jon Stewart and the media industry. Apparently Rick wasn't too happy about the progress of his career and attributed the stagnation to some grand conspiracy of the Jewish Media owners who are trying to keep down minorities.

Really Rick? Because apart from your Hispanic surname, I assumed you were one of the white guys who have benefitted from decades, no centuries, worth of white guy superiority.

Maybe the reason your career is not where it should be has something to do with the fact that you once referred to Obama as a cotton-picking president. Or that you are unable to identify Hawaii on a map.

I don't know and I don't care.

Of course, Rick did correctly point out that many Jews are employed in the media industry.

To which I say, so what? Turns out Jews are good at telling stories and engaging the audience. Have you heard of a little thing called The Bible? Only the best selling book, Ever.

Movies, TV, radio, largely a construct of Jewish imagination. Would you prefer to live in a world without these media outlets? I suppose we could have all gone into dentistry. But it wouldn't have been long before someone would've railed against the Worldwide Jewish Dentistry Domination.

Apart from the rantings of the Aryan Nation, I've never heard anyone complain about how the NBA or NFL is dominated by African Americans. Nor do I hear a peep about how the oil industry is sole domain of rich, white WASPS.

Why then should it bother folks that so many Jews are in media?

I know for sure it's not about us pumping out a single agenda. Like every other ethnicity, we do not speak, act or vote as a monolithic block. In fact, to the contrary we Jews are more fractured than most.

To wit, David Ben Gurion (FYI Rick, he was the former Israeli Prime minister) once noted,
"for every two Jews there are three opinions."



Tuesday, October 5, 2010

My Third Act

It is very common for men my age, 38, to look back at what they have done with their careers, assess their achievements and disappointments, and make the necessary course corrections.

I've attained a modicum of success as a staff agency guy. I was a VP, I flew business class, I hobnobbed with CEOs and I managed to put some work out there that has stood the test of time and is recognizable to folks not only in the ad community but in the culture at large.

My second act wasn't bad either. As a freelancer I've enjoyed incredible flexibility. I've been able to feather the nest egg, a little. And I haven't had to sit in meetings with clients or planners or hipster hat-wearing millennials. This is good as I have a hard time doing as the corporate psycho-babblers say I should do, "be the dumbest guy in the room."

I understand the sentiment behind this line of thinking but to achieve this prerequisite level of dumbness I would have to smash my temporal lobes in with a ball peen hammer.

And now I've come to Act Three of my career.

But what shall I do? Fortunately, TV has provided me the answer. And when does TV not provide the answer?

I just ordered my very own Fushigi Balls. My plan is to become a world class contact juggler. Once I master some of the moves that come with the complimentary DVD I'm going to create Fushigi moves of my own. After all, I come from a creative background, how hard can that be?

Look for me, and my balls, on the Venice boardwalk.
I'll be next to the unshaven panhandler holding up a sign that says, "Will drink for money."


Monday, October 4, 2010

Pinot Codon


Every two or three years I get a bad case of bronchitis. As health problems go, it's a minor inconvenience. And for that I count my blessings. But I don't want to give bronchitis a bad name, after all it's not without its compensations.

You see, to alleviate the congestion in my lungs and the pain associated from my heavy duty industrial coughing, my doctor prescribes me the most wonderful medicine known to mankind, Promethazine w/codeine.

I'm not really sure what the Promethazine does.
But I do know what the codeine does, so who cares about the Promethazine.
It's merely the goblet in which the sweet nectar of the gods comes in.

If you're curious, like I was, you can look up codeine on any number of pharmaceutical reference sites. Side effects of codeine include mild euphoria. That's hardly a downside. If you ask me, we could use a little more euphoria in the world. The side effect is when the euphoria fades away and there's still dirty dishes in the sink and unpaid bills in the unpaid bill box.

I've been through so many bouts with bronchitis that I've become quite discerning in my cough medicine selection. A few years ago, perhaps during a shortage of promethazine, I was prescribed Tussionex w/codeine.

Tussy, as it it is known on the streets, has a fruity finish and packs a higher concentration of 3-methylmorphine. Not only are the effects more intense, they last longer. This is the Dom Perignon of the medicine cabinet. If you ever get a bad cough, or you can fake one, ask your doctor to prescribe you some Tussionex.

2005 was a particular good year.