Thursday, April 28, 2011

Springtime for Larry


Today's letter, the last in the series, comes to us from the Fatherland. And actually the letter didn't come to us, it came to my brother Larry, who was kind enough to share.

The writer of the letter, Michael Elias, is from a town just outside of Dusseldorf called Feldenhausen (which sounds like a perfect name for a concentration camp, but then so many German names sound like concentration camps.)

In any case, he mistakenly assumed my brother was the same Larry Siegel who wrote for MAD Magazine. This is funny for several reasons. The funniest or most creative writing my CPA brother ever does is when he fills out his scorecard on the golf course or on a tax return when a particularly aggressive client doesn't want to pay income taxes.

Furthermore, we were not a Mad Magazine family.

The satirical tastes in the Siegel household ran along a more sophisticated line. I had subscriptions to both National Lampoon and Spy Magazine. And favored the writing of Doug Kenney, Michael O'Donoghue and P.J. O'Rourke. Though we did own the complete set of Mad's paperback book series entitled: Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions. (Which in retrospect could have been the title for a training manual for a career in advertising.)

Toward the end of the letter, Michael requests signed copies of collectibles which we don't have. He even included a couple of dollars to handle the postage for any packages sent back to him in Germany.

No self-respecting Jew sends money back to Germany, so we just pocketed that money and put in our own personal Holocaust Reparation Jar, next to the pens and coffee mugs we heisted from the local Volkswagon dealership.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Letters, Part 3


Today's letter comes from the Nationals Miss Teen Los Angeles Pageant. This actually came to me about a year ago. I immediately stashed it my folder for fear that my youngest daughter might see it.

Don't let your imagination get in front of you on this one. You see due to an unholy obsession with TLC's Toddlers and Tiaras, Abby has an unusual fascination with pageants and pageantry. Had she seen this letter, I never would've heard the end of it until we were actually seated in the Cecil B. De Mille Ballroom at the Holiday Inn LAX Hotel. 

Truth be told, Abby could care less about taking home a trophy or having the prettiest eyes/smile/face. Or even being named Miss Ultimate Grand Royal Supreme. 

No, my little bundle of cynicism just wants to enter a beauty pageant to make a mockery of the whole affair. With two index fingers firmly planted on cheeks, this would be a glorious day of full glitz derision. 

As you might imagine, part of me wanted to spring for the entrance fee, just so we could see Abby don a sequined Tu-tu like so many of the ones we've seen purchased with rent money or permanently deferred college tuition funds. It would have been a riot to see her purposely blotched tanning application. Or her vampire flipper. And in the talent contest, her screechy version of Katy Perry's California Girls would have brought me to tears -- tears of laughter.

The meanie in me also wanted to sit in the same room and come face-to-face with these ridiculous stage moms whose broken dreams and soaring waistlines seem to be in direct proportion to the amount of money invested in the empty vicarious thrills of junior pageantry. But better judgment -- my wife -- prevailed.

Besides I don't need phony validation from a failed beauty queen or cheap plastic trinkets from a snake oil salesman to remind me how lucky I am to come home everyday to my three "Total Packages."


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Letters, we get letters...

(We get lots and lots of letters. This week's theme -- you didn't know we were doing a theme this week did you? -- happens to be letters. I get a lot of weird ones. Maybe no weirder than yours, but I keep mine. For days and weeks just like this)




I found this missive wedged between my screen door and my front door, last week. It comes from a neighbor, an unknown neighbor, who has taken a shining to the flowers we planted in the front yard.  Of course when I say "we" I mean nothing of the sort.

The last time I broke out the shovel and the pick was to transplant a perfectly healthy, perfectly fruitful lime tree from the shady side of the yard to the more sunny side. I don't think I did a very good job. The hole was too shallow. The roots got damaged. And the limes, which were once plentiful and adorned many a Mojito, have disappeared.

Fortunately we still have a productive lemon tree. So when necessary, we pull a very green lemon off the tree and tell ourselves it's a lime.

Now we just leave all the gardening work to Gabriel. And as you can see he did a helluva job with the flowers.

I don't know how smart, "instinctual" and knowledgable Gabriel is, I just know that he shows up every week. He mows the grass, trims the bushes, and tidies up the yard. With the exception of taking out the garbage, he does all the things my wife would otherwise nag me to do.

And for that Gabriel is worth all the money in the world.

If you wanted to compliment me on something, dear unknown neighbor. You should take note of the way I write a check. I do a damn fine job of writing a check.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Jill wants my body.



Yesterday I got a letter from Jill Larson, Senior Vice President at Smart Cremation. Seems she's keen to throw me on to the woodpile. Though Ms. Larson is very premature with her pitch, I figure I've got a good 40-50 years before I make my last entry on roundseventeen. It's her reasoning that I find most troubling.

Jill and the people at Smart Cremation claim that by planning my cremation now I will be "unburdening my loved ones when they are most emotionally vulnerable."

Well, excuse me for dying, but I would hope my demise would burden my loved ones so they realize how much they needed and depended on me. You want to deprive me of that posthumous satisfaction? I don't think so.

I expect, and demand, a torrent of tears. If there is an afterlife, I want to be able to reach across the dimensions of time and space and hear my family utter phrases like, "what are we going to do without him?" or "I can't believe how much he did for us."

I have no interest in making life easier for them when I'm gone anymore than they're interested in making life easier for me while I'm still walking the streets of Culver City.

Over and above that, I find Jill's claim of "the many sound advantages of cremation" and the notion of "leaving the planet in good shape when we depart" quite amusing. Particularly since this letter crossed my desk on Earth Day.

I suspect the cremation of my body and the subsequent wood and fuel needed to fully roast my 200 + lbs. corpse would add significant carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and contribute to global warming. Whereas planting me six feet under and putting me on the menu for grubs, caterpillars and worms will have just the opposite effect and contribute vital nutrients to the biosphere.

But where you really lost me Jill, was the last line of your letter when you offer a 100% money back guarantee if any of my loved ones are not satisfied for any reason.

Perhaps I'm lacking in imagination, but I can't for the life of me --literally--picture a scenario of a cremation gone bad that would necessitate a refund, partial or otherwise.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

I need some Paxil


I'm very depressed. I know that's no excuse and the business of funny has to go on, but I feel I must tell you of my sorrow.

Last week, for the very first time, I entered the New Yorker Caption the Cartoon Contest. And today I found out that my entry ("You booked us a connecting flight at O'Hare? Who does that?") did not crack the top three. I thought it was understated and wryly captured the woes of today's modern fliers.

In retrospect, I suppose it could have been funnier.
Indeed, it should have been funnier.
But what upsets me most is that the top prize will go to John Pignata from Brooklyn, NY.

His pithy, winning caption?

"Well, you're the one who insisted on the smoking section."

First of all, you wouldn't be able to smoke a cigarette at 600 knots an hour. And secondly John, when was the last time you heard of a smoking section on an airline?

Color me blue. Very blue.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"Honey, have you seen my Filthy Cock?"


One reason to go to Hawaii is to see things you normally wouldn't see here on the Mainland. Oh look, a stop sign that says, "whoa" because it was near the Parker Ranch, home of the original Hawaiian Cowboy. How clever is that?

The other reason to fly 2500 miles across the Pacific Ocean is the shaved ice. Or so I'm told by my two daughters.

They could care less about snorkeling, volcanic craters or black sand beaches. They'd fore go all of the above for some ice shavings drizzled with fruit flavored sugary chemicals. In this respect, they are less like boy crazy teenagers and more like easily-excited 7 year olds.

As a father who sees their youth slipping away, I'm more than happy to indulge this last vestige of childhood. If it means not having to deal with boys, dating, drugs, drinking and the drama of young adulthood, I'd fly them around the world for shaved ices.

But I know their innocence is on the wane. And so do the owners of the Mamalahoa Shaved Ice store off the Hamakua Coast. You see while my wife and daughters were enjoying some Papaya/Mango/Pineapple concoction, I was scoping out the souvenirs offered by this fine establishment.

That's when I spotted the finest in Hawaiian Hygiene care:




Though the purchase would have been hard to explain to my family, I opted not bring home any of this smartly packaged soap. In fact, personally I think it's a huge scam.

Upon further olfactory examination, I couldn't tell difference between the Filthy Pussy and the Filthy Beaver.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Why last night was different


Last night was the first night of Passover. Naturally we had family over to eat bitter herbs, strange fish, and cardboard-like bread material. And to recall my people's exodus from the land of Pharaoh.

But as we were reading from the coffee-stained Hagaddahs that have been stashed in a drawer since Maxwell House poured their first cup of Joe, it was hard to ignore the current political rumblings in the Middle East and the incongruity of the Muslim narrative with regard to Jews.

First, the latter.

The telling of the Exodus and the prophecy of Moses is told countless times in the Quran. In fact, Moses is revered in Islam as one of the greatest men of all time. Furthermore, Muslims believe God gave the Israelites the Torah and fully acknowledge their journey to Canaan. They've even built a shrine,  where Moses is believed to be buried. And that shrine is just outside Jerusalem. In other words, for centuries imams throughout the world have validated a Jewish presence in Israel.

I don't understand how modern day Arabs and Muslims, who are violently faithful to the Quran, can now assert that Jews have no historical claim to the land. Somehow the people who run the madrassas have figured that one out.

The optimist in me says that perhaps that's all about to change.

We've seen the Egyptians freed from Mubarak. The Libyans are on the verge of ousting Kaddafi. And there's growing unrest in Yemen, Bahrain and Syria, where Assad is torturing, persecuting and shooting his own countrymen.

I don't share a lot with the incredibly anti-Semitic folks in these countries. I'm shocked by their tribal ignorance, appalled at their views on women and gays, and repulsed by their intolerance for people of other or no faith. And I find it amusing that many still refer to Jews as the sons of Pigs and Apes.

Still, no one should live in the bondage of political slavery. So in the spirit of Passover and in the modified words of Moses, "Let those people go."

Monday, April 18, 2011

Dumbest Criminals Not Caught on Tape


About two months ago, and against the always-wiser advice of my wife, I installed a state of the art camera surveillance system on my home. The cameras are motion activated and capable of incredibly clear infrared night vision. The system also has a large capacity DVR recording system that can back up months of surveillance. There's even an internet based application that allows me to check in on my house via my iPhone.

As far as the camera system itself, well there's good news and there's bad news.

The good news is that since installing the system, no dogs have pooped on my front yard. And more importantly, the person who was leaving trash on my doorstep and vandalizing the garden has suddenly stopped.

The bad news? No dogs have pooped on my front yard. And the person leaving trash on my doorstep and vandalizing the garden has suddenly stopped.

You see, part of the joy of installing such a high tech system was the promise of actually catching some rascal red-handed and providing the local police indisputable evidence.

Frankly, I've been robbed of that.

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the peace and quiet. And I'm happy that my crazed neighbor has re-upped his prescription of lithium. There's a lot to be said for deterrence. But there's even more to said about retribution, a plate that is best served digitally, compliments of the EyeMax HSR 9000.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Mast from the Past




Last week, Publisher Michael Wolf announced that Adweek would no longer look like Adweek. In keeping with the times and the changing media landscape, the magazine was being overhauled.

This makes me sad for several reasons; it seems like this is one more nail in coffin of print and it marginalizes the parody MADWEEK, that we (Jim Jennewein, Tom Parker and myself) published -- dare I say it -- over twenty years ago.

Much of the writing is as Dick Sittig put it, "sophomoric" and dated, but truth be told the writing wasn't the noteworthy accomplishment here. You see, Jim, Tom and I were all young copywriters with a belly full fire and an industry full of rich satirical targets. What strikes me is that we managed to pay for, publish and hand distribute 5,000 copies of this full length parody magazine.

Mind you, the year was 1989 before any of us had a laptop or a digital camera. Type had to be set (after hours and on the sly), film had to be processed, vendors had to be paid, and the pick up truck had to be loaded up with gas for a full day of drop offs along Wilshire Blvd. (where the ad agencies used to be.)

It was quite the endeavor. If it were being done today, some kid who never walked a mile in the snow to get to school, would have slapped together a PDF and shot the whole thing out as an email blast before lunch was even warm.

While MADWEEK was a logistical nightmare, it was one of the most rewarding experiences. Not only because we were (for a brief moment) the talk of the town, and we landed our pictures in the NY Times, but mostly because we did it on our own dime. 

So there were no pollyanna clients, no second-guessing account executives and no North Manchester, douchebag hat-wearing planners to say, "before we do this, maybe we should do a focus group."


PS. I've managed to scan the entire magazine and will answer any requests with a complimentary copy.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

One small step for man


That's molten lava.
As far as the eye can see.
What would possess anyone to walk 1 mile across this rocky, God-forsaken moonscape?

The answer is Makalewena Beach, described by some as the most beautiful beach on the Big Island and all of Hawaii for that matter.

Thanks to my diligent wife, we started the trip to Makalewena completely prepared.

Snorkel gear: check
Towels: check
Sunscreen: check
Water: check
Fruit and snacks: check
Cell phone: check
Camera: check
First aid kit: check. (We had aloe vera, that's good for everything)

We turned off Highway 19 and spotted the rocky road that lead to the staging area. We conveniently ignored the clause in the rental car contract that forbids driving on roads marked for 4x4's and gently eased the cream puff Chevy Malibu over the cratered terrain. It took about 20 minutes to cover the 1.5 mile drive.

Turned out the drive would be the easiest part of the trip to Makalewena.

We followed a dirt trail towards the water, where a surfer told us we'd have to hoof it another mile to reach our destination. "Just walk across the lava field behind the hut," he said.

Now I've been blessed with a hearty wife and two equally hearty daughters who are up for any adventure, particularly if some author of a travel book promises a handsome reward for the treacherous journey. What I wasn't blessed with was the proper footwear. Unfortunately, I had left my hiking shoes back at the hotel and was sporting a pair of paper thin water shoes.

So I balked. And suggested we stay put at the unnamed beach, where the turquoise water and powdery soft sand could hardly be surpassed. We caught some waves, body surfed and cracked open our lunch at a nearby picnic table. There wasn't a soul in sight and the setting was just perfect. I just didn't realize how perfect.

There, under the table, as if sent by Providence, was a pair of inch thick flip flops. I tried them on. And though they were a size too small, they certainly offered enough protection to brave the rocky path you see pictured above.

30 minutes later we landed at Makalewena. Where we were greeted by two German women, going au naturale, and easily the most beautiful beach any of us had ever laid eyes on.

It turned out to be a fabulous day. The mysteriously-sent, but ill-fitting flip flops protected the heels but cut a nice gash across the top of my feet. But we did have aloe vera. And best of all, on a day trip where I had expected none, I got to see bouncy, unsheathed boobies.

Mahalo.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Hacking it up


If you know me at all, you know I don't spend a lot of time gushing over other people's work. This is very easy to explain. I either don't like their work or more often than not, I simply think mine is better. I say that with no intended disrespect. Rather, it is borne from a gunslinger's mentality.

I think Maverick respected Iceman's ability as a pilot, but when push came to shove, he wanted to be the one to pull the trigger on the sidewinder that would take down the Mig 29.

I mention all this because last week it was announced that Eric Kallman was leaving Weiden & Kennedy to become the ECD at Barton F Graf 9000, a start up agency in NY. For those of you not in the business, Kallman was responsible for this year's Old Spice Campaign featuring the man you wish your man could smell like. (He also gave us the questionable print ad pictured above, look closely before you judge.)

And while I'm an admirer of his deodorant-shilling work, it was an earlier spot Kallman did that made me a fan.



In my mind, this has everything a great commercial should have: great dialogue, chocolate candy and hints of post traumatic stress syndrome.

Years ago I presented an equally absurd campaign to El Pollo Loco. I proposed a new spokesperson, a Lucha Libre. I presented the whole campaign while wearing a Mexican Wrestling mask. It was weird. It was violent. It was funny. When I removed the mask to get a better look at the client's reaction, I knew right away it a No Sale.

In fact, two weeks later, we lost the account. Ending my hope of ever producing the kind of head-scratching work Mr. Kallman has produced.

And so today I tip my hat to Eric. In light of the great and distinctive work you have done, my pedestrian work pales in comparison. In the immortal words of Pinata Man, "I'm just like everyone else."

Monday, April 11, 2011

J*WS


A couple of weeks ago I pointed out the story of the Iranian Secretary Minister who called for a boycott of the London 2012 Olympics because the logo allegedly spelt out the word, Zion. Before that, there was a call to boycott Pepsi because of the absurd notion that the name stands for Pay Every Penny to Save Israel.

I have provided links, because frankly I couldn't make this stuff up.

And now, just when you thought it was safe to go back into the waters of sanity, there's this story coming out of Egypt.

A German tourist was killed while bathing near the warm waters of Sharm el Sheikh. And Regional Governor Mohamed Abdel Fadil Shousha believes the shark was trained and sent by Israel's intelligence agency, Mossad. Shousha doesn't offer any evidence that the tourist-eating carnivore originated from Israel, but like the London logo or the carbonated brown fizzy water campaign, facts/credibility/legitimacy is not a large concern in the Arab world.

Of course, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you.

Last Friday night I was fortunate enough to attend a Shabbat Service at our temple, where the congregation was paid a visit by the local Israeli consulate. In addition to detailing this year's tree-planting campaign he also shared some juicy details about Israel's ongoing battles with its hostile neighbors.

To that end, and this is certainly newsworthy, Mossad agents are cleverly working on a new hummus with altered density and specific gravity.

Once this specially designed hummus is distributed in markets and bazaars it is sure to spread havoc throughout the region. Let's say an Algerian man, or Syrian woman, dips his or her pita bread in some of the new hummus. And let's say by chance he or she drops the said pita bread. The new Mossad-formulated hummus is designed to alter the falling pattern of the  bread and land (99.9% of the time) hummus side down in the sand. Rendering the pita and the hummus completely inedible.

If that's not a testament to Israeli ingenuity, nothing else is.

Now when that same frustrated (and hungry) Arab mutters, "Damn Jews" in disgust, he won't be so far off the mark.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Tomorrow's forecast: Cloudy


Given my predisposition to cynicism and my obvious disdain for anything that reeks of 'spiritual', 'metaphysical' or 'faith-based', I am curious as to why Stephanie Risely's ad for Pastlife Regression Works popped up on my Facebook page. Perhaps it has to do with my obvious need to lose weight, get lean and sexy now. I've been trying to do that my whole life. And to no avail, I might add.

I know it has nothing to do with getting plugged into my soul power. I have the power to bench press my own weight, but as far as soul goes, I'm afraid the crotchetty middle-aged man on the outside goes all the way to the core.

I am however fascinated by people who believe they have had past lives.

Invariably they were Kings or Queens who once presided over large swaths of land and commanded great armies capable of taking down the Romans. What a traumatic descent they have made to bourgeois homeowner, mother of two and Senior Brand Manager of Proctor & Gamble, Soft Packaged Goods Division.

Personally, I'm not concerned about what or who I might have been in the past. Nor do I believe there is any wisdom to be gleaned from that supposed knowledge. What terrifies me is the notion that some fat, bald Jew of the future will retrace his steps and stumble upon my sophomoric legacy of snarky advertising and naval-gazing blog postings and say to himself, "That was my past life? I want a refund."

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Mas Pupus?



50 years from now, no one will be hosting the Kevin James Film Festival; A Cinematic Look Back on the Man's Huge Body of Work. The truth is, he has strung together an impressive number of flops. An Al Queda operative has a better chance of blowing up a plane with a jock strap bomb than Kevin has of hitting theatrical pay dirt.

Nevertheless, I do find myself laughing out loud at his antics. Perhaps its because of his excess girth or the fact that we both hail from Flushing, NY. But you put me on a plane with a non-stop loop of the King of Queens, Doug Heffernan and his dysfunctional marriage, and I'm a happy camper.

Of course this is not to imply that Kevin James has not made an impact in the world of film. Weighing in at more than 300 lbs. it would be hard NOT to have an impact.

Let me explain.

Last week, while vacationing in Hawaii, my wife and I were enjoying a sunset dinner at the Hale Kai restaurant and just as another plate of pupu's was being placed on the table I looked up and noticed a security guard was tooling around the property. He wasn't just any security guard. Though the light was dimming I could tell this man was no stranger to the buffet table. And he wasn't just tooling around the property either. He was propped up on a Segway (the SW9000 Beach Cruiser, I believe).

Now this where I owe you the reader an apology. Had I been thinking straight and not under the influence of several Cucumber Pomegranate Pineapple Mojitos I would have been quick enough to snap a photo of the man. I didn't. But I think you get the the picture.

If you don't get the picture consider this: the minute Mr. Rent A Cop and a Half whirled away from the restaurant, almost every person seated under a thatched hut was heard to whisper, "Paul Blart, Mall Cop."

So here's a little note to all barrel-chested men, who like myself might have a weakness for beef ribs and garlic sourdough toast, if you ever find yourself sporting a tin badge and polyester pants and someone offers you some motorized, gyroscopic transportation, kindly look them them in the eye and say,
"No thanks, I'd prefer to hoof it."

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

I need a Mai Tai

I'm going to go out on a limb and guess you don't know the meaning behind the symbol to the left. It's the logo for the Pele. Not the soccer player, but the Regional Addy award given to the creators of outstanding advertising in Hawaii. 

In case you missed it, the three red boxes create the P in Pele, but they are separated to look like islands because...well it's a Hawaiian award. That's conceptual design. Or so I'm told.

I was asked to be a judge of the Pele's years ago. There was a time when I was asked to be a judge at quite a few shows. But that's when awards meant something. And boondoggle's meant something more. 

Truth is, I didn't judge many shows. I don't like flying in planes and I don't like not sleeping in my own bed. But when someone offers to fly you out to Oahu and comp you four days away from nagging clients and self-important planners, well that's just an offer that can't be refused.

Of course now in retrospect I wish I had.

Because of a logistics error, the Pele awards committee could not secure us a room at the Waikiki Hilton and instead placed us at the Royal Ilikai Hotel which was located next door. The Ilikai didn't feel much like a hotel, it felt like a nursing home that aspired to be a hotel. As I joked with a friend, they managed to put the 'ill' in Ilikai.

The wallpaper was peeling.
The carpet was rotting.
And the air conditioner was louder than a Japanese Zero.

You could argue that it's a bit ungracious of me to be complaining about three free nights at a hotel but the fact is, I would have gladly paid to sleep somewhere else. Somewhere clean. But I couldn't switch hotels because that would have been ungracious.

In my review on epinions.com I wrote that the best thing about the Royal Ilikai was the cab ride leaving the hotel.

Fortunately, the 15 hour days judging the "stellar" work minimized my time at the hotel. And I did meet several high level executives from some Detroit agencies. One of whom said he was a big fan of my work at that if I wanted to relocate to Michigan I had a standing offer of employment. 

I wonder if an offer like that has a statute of limitations.






Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Aloha


I have spent far too much time at the swim-up bar and hardly anytime at the keyboard, so you'll have to excuse me as I get back into the habit of putting one letter after another.

So today, I just want to congratulate the Hooters Marketing team and genii who came up with this idea.
Best. Contest. Name. Ever.
Ever.