Tuesday, January 31, 2012

White Guy Problems


There's a sign at the pool where I swim on a daily basis that says, "All swimmers must wear a cap."

I assume this is to prevent hair from clogging up the expensive filters. I don't wear a cap because I no longer have hair on my head. There's a man who regularly works out in Lane #1 who also doesn't wear a cap. He's bald too, so I don't have a problem with that. But considering his ursine appearance and the extraordinary amount of hair that covers his back, I think someone in management ought to make him wear a wetsuit.

The very notion of one of his back hairs finding its way into my mouth has forced me to alter my swim stroke and my breathing technique. I've spoken with some of the women who frequent the pool and not surprisingly it has altered their routine as well. When they see Yogi in the pool, they pack up their belongings and head for the spinning bikes.

I'm no stranger to errant body hair. And I've written about this before. All it took was one trip to the beach and some smart ass kid asking his mother, "Why is that man wearing a sweater?" to send me straight to the nearest Rite-Aid to purchase a cordless personal groomer.

So now I manscape with all the regularity of a 26-year old West Hollywood gym rat.

I only wish my furry friend would discover the wonders of Wahl. Either that or some other way to get his cardio exercise.

You see my other problem with this hirsute heavyweight is he doesn't come to the pool to swim. While I'm dutifully maxing out my heart rate with a tortuous rotation of 50's, 100's, 200's and 400-yard sprints, he's walking the lane, jogging in place and flailing his arms in some supposed aqua resistance training. Then he'll grab a kick board (not to kick with) and start pushing and pulling it through the water, creating a whirlpool effect that brings the water, and my temper, to a boiling rage.

Am I being petty?
Of course I am.

Did you not see the title of this post?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Family Values


A very famous comedian -- it might have been one of my Jewish friends hoping to become a very famous comedian -- once said of Judaism, "I'm in it for the holidays."

Lord knows we certainly have enough of them.

Last week was Tu B'shvat, the Jewish Arbor Day. Next week is Ched G'mash, commemorating the invention of guilt. And in just two short months, we will be in the thick of Passover.

Now I happen to love Passover. Not that I believe any of the particulars of the Exodus story. In fact many of the details simply do not jive with Jewish culture as I know it.

Take the Matzo myth and the story of the unleavened bread for instance. I've been around far too many aunts, bubbies and nanas to know that no Jewish woman is going to take something out of the oven early, particularly on the advice of a Jewish Man.

Furthermore there is this whole canard about painting the doorways with the blood of gentile children(as seen in the picture above). Except for the doctors and dentists, most of us are incredibly squeamish and tend to shy away from blood.

Moreover, Jews don't paint. We hire Mexicans or Koreans to do that.

And then finally there's the 40 years of wandering around the desert. I am a direct descendant of a NYC cab driver, I spent a good part of my childhood on the Long Island Expressway and have actually driven the streets of lower Manhattan so I can tell you first hand, Jews don't wander. Never have, never will. We want to get to where we're going and if possible we want to get there 5 minutes before the next guy just to get a better seat.

If somewhere in the Hagadah someone said to Moses, "What's with all this fakakta wandering? My feet are killing me." It might lend the story a little more credibility. Until then, I'm not buying any of it.

But I digress.

The reason why I love Passover, and for that matter the other very frequent Hebraic holidays, is more personal. It's more about my daughters, who you may or may not know attend Catholic High School. With the monthly masses and the daily religion classes, they are subjected to quite a bit of Jesui-osity. And that's fine. As Gandhi said, "I like your Jesus, it's your Christians I have a problem with."

So the holidays are a welcome a respite. And even though we tend to treat them with irreverence and a healthy helping of self-deprecation, the holidays are an opportunity for my daughters to reconnect with their faith. And indeed fills them with great anticipation.

Or as my youngest daughter so eloquently put it, "it's a chance for me to get my Jew back on."

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Bruce Lee and how I got my start in advertising


Last week the trailer for an upcoming movie called I Am Bruce Lee hit the Internet with all its fury. Seeing the trailer reminded me how Bruce Lee played an instrumental part in my career.

The year was...let's just say it was long time ago.

I was working as a short order cook at a cafe that was inside a health club on Overland Ave. As health clubs go, it was pretty swanky. It had an outdoor pool, 8 tennis courts and its very own restaurant. It also had a very affluent clientele.

During my much more social youth I would easily strike up a conversation with anybody. And so it was I got to know Michael Allin, a fellow New Yorker who had transplanted himself on the West Coast and was making a living as a screenwriter. In fact, he is the writer given sole credit on the now-iconic film, Enter the Dragon.

You can imagine how excited I, a newly-minted college graduate, was to meet a real live screenwriter.

Moreover Michael was a real nice fellow, void of any Hollywood pretension. He could see that I was underemployed and encouraged me with my writing pursuits. In fact, he said, his wife was once married to Mel Newhoff, President of Abert, Newhoff & Burr, a very successful ad agency in Century City. Michael offered to set up a meeting.

Within days -- you have to remember this was time before cell phones and emails -- I had an interview set up the Creative Director. Of course, like an idiot I showed up without a portfolio in hand. But the former Mrs. Newhoff had good taste in men, and Mel was a sweetheart. He told me how and what I'd have to do to get a job as a young copywriter.

A few years after that interview, Mel actually hired me.

My first office looked like a set from Mad Men. I literally thought the HR people had made a mistake. It had a big wooden desk. A new typewriter. A couch and a coffee table. Plus floor-to-ceiling windows that looked west from 18 stories high, giving me a five star view of the Santa Monica Bay.

Sadly, not unlike Bruce Lee's life, the era of lavish living for agency creatives ended way too soon. My next office was half the size and had a view of the parking lot.

It's been windowless interior offices and Initech-like cubicles ever since.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Who's hungry?


Hunger is a serious problem in America. And the recent economic malaise has not helped. This is shameful considering we produce an astounding amount of the world's food. Did you know for instance that 60% of the rice consumed in the US is for direct food, another 20% goes for processed food; and the rest goes into the production of beer.

It's also embarrassing when you consider the US government subsidizes farms not to grow food.

When you think of our incredibly fertile land, our obscene wealth and our amazing capacity to package, market and distribute products, there isn't a reason in the world why one American child should go to bed on an empty stomach.

Someone ought to explain that to Stuffy McGutstuffer (pictured above), the man leading the charge against domestic hunger.

Maybe the next time he goes to a restaurant he could order a split plate and drop the remaining shrimp poppers, bacon and cheddar potato skins, and the last third of his corn-fed porterhouse steak at the local shelter?

Actually, if Mr. I-Broke-My-Lap-Band were to give up half of what he ate on a regular basis, it would be a small step in the right direction.

Correction, a big step.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The New Tagline is Here


Traffic is up here at Roundseventeen. I just got done looking at the analytics and 2011 ended with a flourish. More hits. More readers. Even more followers who say they follow this blog with regularity, but really don't.

Apart from my occasional linkings on agencyspy.com I haven't a clue as to why more people are showing up here. I know for a fact that the writing has not improved. In fact, with my recent low carbohydrate diet, I fear the opposite is true.

It matters not to me. As I've mentioned before, I do this for the sheer enjoyment. It's also good therapy. A famed psychologist recently said "depression is just anger turned inwards." So rather than go inwards, I turn my anger into little binary bits.

Besides, in my mind, millions of people wake up every day, grab their freshly brewed coffee (made by Braun. Incinerating Jews since 1941) and settle down to 400-500 words of well-hewed wit.

We all know that is not the case. But I live in Los Angeles, where success, happiness, and true real estate value, are all illusory. Which is in essence the thinking behind the new tagline:

Roundseventeen.
Riding a wave of self importance since 2009.

Editorial note: I don't know if you can read it, but I tracked down an old poster that shows perhaps the greatest tagline ever written. It's a little small. But it reads TRW. A company called TRW. I have yet to come up with anything so brilliant, but I'm still young. Youngish.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Dim Reaper


My mom passed away seven years ago today.

The news of my mom's passing kicked off the very worst week in my life. And the memories are still quite vivid.

I remember arriving at JFK at midnight on a Sunday, with my entire family in tow. I remember how the Hertz rental car agent had already closed up shop, and we were forced to stand in a taxi line in bitter 5 degree weather. I remember flagging a limousine down and paying the guy $100 to drive us the 1/2 mile to the Hertz rental car lot.

And that was all in the first 30 minutes.

Let's not forget the raging food poisoning we all got at the Outback Steakhouse in Monroe, NY, later in the week. Not to mention our lovely non-smoking motel room that smelled like the bottom of an ash tray. And of course, there was the grizzly business of selecting a casket and making hasty burial decisions to comply with the odd Jewish law that all bodies must be returned to the Earth within 48 hours.

That's convenient. Thanks a lot Maimonides.

But one incident stands out above all others. The day before the funeral I was driving my family in northern New Jersey. The roads were slick from black ice. Suddenly I was  confronted with a sea of brake lights and eased the Chevy Suburban -- carrying my wife, my two daughters, my brother, my sister and her twin daughters -- to a stop. It was a close call. But nowhere near as close as the next one.

Because I looked in my rear view mirror and saw an 18-wheel truck barreling down my backside. I had no escape route, nor did the driver of the truck. He slammed on his air brakes. I can still hear that screeching and I watched in the mirror, knowing full well the Grim Reaper was about to snatch up the entire Siegel clan.

And then he hit us. I opened my eyes and was surprised to find that heaven looked amazingly like Ramsey, NJ.

The truck driver and I convened outside and were amazed that the "collision" did not even leave a scratch on the Suburban (thankfully, because there was a $500 deductible). It truly was The Miracle on Route 17.

This incredulous story was retold over and over again over the course of the next few days. And naturally, those seeking to comfort us would say something like, "that was your mother looking out for you."

I don't buy any of that.

I may be the least spiritual man in the world. I don't believe in God. I don't believe in angels. I don't believe in the supernatural in any way, shape or form. These are things I just don't know.

But I did know my mother. And I know that if my Glasgowian mum could wield any sort of powers from the great beyond, she'd have taken a pass on the whole scare-the-family-with-the-front-end-of-a-truck business and would have instead provided me with the winning numbers to the N.J. Super Lotto.

That much I know.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

She's a good listener


Consider my day.

I woke up this morning and came downstairs to hear my wife cackling on the phone with her sister in Petaluma. Every Saturday morning (I know today is Thursday but I write these blog entries in advance) my wife and her sister are on the phone for a good 2-3 hours, so that's not unusual.

But today, the gabba-gabba-gabba was accompanied by the soundtrack from Wicked, which was playing on my wife's iPad.

Why? Because today my wife, my two daughters, my mother-in-law, my other sister-in-law and my other other sister-in-law's daughter were going to see the show at the Pantages theater. That's a lot of estrogen in a 7-passenger minivan.

Sadly the show was not nearly long enough.

Because they returned from the theater just in time for the kickoff of the Patriots/Broncos Divisional Playoff Game. Not because they wanted to see it, but I did. Unfettered by the endless flapping of jaws and the painful re-rendering of Broadway show tunes.

Last week, I came across the picture above and thought, surely I can write something funny about these losers with their bad fashion choices, bad haircuts and bad exercise regimens. Now I'm not so sure. Maybe  these guys are onto something.

Except the guy in the green plaid shirt.
Dude, your lady has a nice rack but look at her posture, that's embarrassing.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

In my day


Before I start, you'll have to pardon me while I slip into my old man cranky pants, the Sansa-belts with the elastic waistline that can accommodate my expanding belly full of rage.

Because today I want to talk about today's kids. More specifically, today's kids who work in advertising. Even more specifically, today's kids who work in the creative departments of today's advertising agencies.

They have it too easy.

I'm sure they work the long hours. They sacrifice their weekends. They cancel vacations just like I did. I'm not saying they don't work hard. I'm saying they have no business being in the business. Yet.

They have it too easy because they got in too easily.

Ever since the advent of the big holding companies advertising agencies have been seeking ways to hold the bottom line. The first cost-cutting maneuvers were obvious. No one travels in business class anymore. No one stays in fancy hotels. And the Christmas bonus, which had already become a thing of the past, would now become a thing of which no one spoke of.

Then some douchenozzle in the Accounting Department decided agencies could save a bundle of money if they farmed their own talent. Not unlike farmed salmon, which looks and smells like the real thing, but doesn't taste as good as their free range brethren caught in the wild.

This gave birth to a number of "intern" or "young gun" programs where promising students were fast-tracked right out of colleges and right into agency cubicles. Again, not unlike the farmed salmon.

And while at first blush this may appear to make perfect sense, on second blush it does not.

I can only speak from personal experience but getting my foot in the door-- which took quite a few years -- was a vital part of the creative maturing process. In addition to the constant refinement and rebirthing of my book, I wrote and designed my own self promos. Through trial and error, I learned what worked and what did not. Most did not.

But like the study of Algebra, the result was not half as important as the process. It forced me (and dozens of my contemporary colleagues) to be more focused, more discerning, more in tune with what an agency was looking for in a young copywriter. In other words, it was good training in the art of persuasion. The kind of training today's kids aren't getting.

More importantly, while I was doing everything humanly possible to get a foot in the door at a legitimate ad agency I was paying my dues, cranking out thousands of help wanted ads at a recruitment ad agency. Am I being hyperbolic? No, I am not. On a typical day, I knocked out 15-20 ads, each one about 500 words long. That's a lot of shitty writing. But everyday it made me less and less shittier.

Doubt the veracity of my theory? Consider the fact that it took Lee Clow two years before he initially got the past the receptionist at Chiat/Day.

In my case it took even longer.

Am I bothered by the preponderance of all these kids wondering the halls of today's creative department?
Yes. And No.

Sure it would have made my life a whole lot easier had I been hired under the auspices of some cubbie copywriting program. That part bothers me.

But when today's kids can't crack an indecipherable brief or deliver some insight on a marketing problem because the only life experience they have is planking, clubbing and sharing twit pics, well, that's what makes my phone ring.

And that part never bothers me.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Just Fugging with you


The 2011 College Football season is now in the books, culminating with last week's drubbing of the LSU Tigers by the Tide of Alabama in the Liquid Plumber with Activated MicroCrystals Bowl.

It was an exciting season though I will admit I did not follow it passionately. To be honest I don't follow college football with any regularity. Not since my team, the Syracuse Orangemen, won the Championship back in 1959.

Obviously that predates me, so it's clear that I don't follow college football at all.

But I did catch the tail end of the Liberty Bowl on the recent New Year's Eve, which tells you how exciting my life can be. And I did see Vanderbilt Defensive End Tim Fugger get walked off the field after a severe ankle sprain. And I did go reaching for my DVR so I could snatch this picture of the player in his agony (and I'm not referring to his foot).

In the past, I've documented sad athletes with unfortunate surnames like Putz or Schmuck. But those pale in comparison to this poor Fugger. I can't imagine the grief rained upon him in the locker room, "Hey who took my deodorant spray? I'll bet it was that Fugger." 

Or how about the colorful comments in the stands when the Vanderbilt team is playing on the road.

"Block that Fugger."


"Would somebody hit that Fugger?"


"Don't let him in the backfield. Put a body on that mother Fugger."


I could go on all fugging day.



Editorial note: In the rereading of this fugging post it has become clear that I've now sunk to a new low. I apologize and declare an end to my experimentation with decaffeinated coffee.



Thursday, January 12, 2012

Respect



Headline:  Steve Hayden is named AAAA Leader of the Year.


That's a rough facsimile of the invitation my partner Dennis Lim and I produced in 1994. My apologies for not finding the original piece but I'm not much of a rat packer. I throw stuff out. Even the good stuff. But this gives you a good idea how the invite looked. 

It also gives you a good idea about Steve.

You see we had presented a ton of concepts, but Steve would have none of them. He wanted to take the piss out of all this false pomp and circumstance. He literally told us to make the invitation more self-deprecating. I'm sure we had something even bluer, but this was after all an honorary banquet not a Friar's Roast.

In any case, it shows Steve's humility. And his grace. None of which I deserved, because in 1994 I was by all accounts (and most account executives) a hotheaded colossal asshole.

Let me back up a little. I was hired to work at BBDO West by the new Creative Director David Lubars. It was the first and only time I was actively recruited. Weirdly however, BBDO West was also being led by Creative Director Steve Hayden. I, nor anyone else on the staff, understood why we had two Creative Directors both of whom were also the agency president. As someone who was never skilled in the art of kissing ass, you can imagine how confused this left me. 

I only know that Lubars hired me. But Hayden was stuck with me. 

Normally a situation like that leads to friction. But Steve was far too professional to be bothered by any of that. Instead he talked me down from a career ledge and helped me get through one of the toughest assignments I've ever faced in advertising -- a 10-page Apple insert to run in the Wall Street Journal. 

To this day I still get shivers thinking about all the technical gobbledygook that had to be sorted through and turned into proper English. Particularly since I was such a noob when it came to software/hardware/computer architecture, and such.

But Steve, acting as professor and Creative Director helped me plough through. And in doing so taught me an invaluable lesson about demystifying technology. And being a better writer. It's never about being fancy. Or clever. Or even funny (as this post amply demonstrates). Good writing is about being clear.

So with Steve retiring and all those he influenced coming out of the woodwork to pay him the appropriate homage, let me be perfectly clear.

Thanks Steve.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Weak Pimp Hand


I don't know if there's any life form on Earth lower than a pimp. They're glorified in rap music or on HBO shows like Cathouse, but no amount of media puffery can put a shine on these manipulative turds. For the life of me I don't understand why women would sell their bodies on the street and then hand all the proceeds to men with the worst work ethics and fashion standards on the face of the planet.

Presidential candidate Ron Paul doesn't say a lot that makes sense but in keeping with his Libertarian bent he is for decriminalizing prostitution, which might put pimps out of business. And on that I'd have to agree with him.

Of course, there's another way to get pimps off the street, a surefire method that doesn't require lengthy discussions about morality or political wrangling or costly bureaucratic red tape. This method was amply demonstrated the other night while watching Spike TV.



There is so much to like about this 1-minute clip I hardly know where to begin. I know it's not popular, but I'm a big fan of righteous vigilantism. I appreciate the misguided employee loyalty of the woman who is trying to protect 'her man.' But mostly I love the deception and the delivery of the knockout blow.

Watch as the karate guy distracts Papa Dazzle Slick with his right hand. Then instantaneously delivers a forearm blow to the pimp's unprotected carotid artery sending him to the ground like a discarded peep show flyer.

It's a thing of beauty. In fact, it stands up to so many repeated viewings. The youtube counter says this video has been watched 325,402 viewings. I'm good for about 378 of those.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

An Improdent Decision



My children hate me.

They know every time we take a road trip there's a chance I'm going to spot something that merits a 180 degree U-turn, the grabbing of the iPhone and the mandatory blog snapshot.

This gem came to us after a recent ski outting at Mammoth Mountain over the Christmas break. I believe the Town House Motel is located in Big Pine on the Southbound side of Route 395, only the most scenic road in the Golden State.

What I find puzzling about this sign is that owners clearly did not mean they have the Best Rat in town. The FTC does not allow those type of advertising claims without any proof. I know this from my many years in advertising and my extensive knowledge of weasel words.

And who is to say that the rats across the street at the Big Pine Inn aren't any better?

Obviously they were appealing to to the bargain hunter who is looking for the Best Rate. Perhaps they ran out of E's.

Here is where a little editing might have come in handy. Given a choice between a nice motel room and clean motel room, I would opt for clean. I suspect most people would. In that case, the owners of the Town House could have easily omitted the word 'Nice' from the sign and found themselves with an extra E to change Rat to Rate.

Of course I also know from my many years in advertising that copy changes and major marketing decisions like that are never made lightly. Had that option been nixed they could have 'borrowed' an E from one of the other words. For instance:

NICE CLAN ROOMS
BEST RATE   IN TOWN.

That would have been very interesting.
And to the further displeasure of my children, I definitely would have pulled the car over for a picture.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Down There


According to the Washington Post, the top 1% of the nation's population account for 24% of the nation's total income and more than 40% of its wealth. I just spent the last 6 months knocking around
autotrader.com to save a couple of hundreds dollars on a used Volvo for my daughter.

Clearly, I am not in the 1%.

I'm in the upper tiers of the remaining 99%. And I understand the rage that consumes folks who have worked hard, lived by the rules and expected a fair return on their labor. There is a great wealth disparity in this country. And a small minority have benefitted from their treasonous greed. In that respect I have great empathy for the 99%. At least 99% of them.

You see the spectrum goes two ways.

On the one side you have the monumentally wealthy and their abhorrent avarice. On the other end you have the inordinately entitled and their conspicuous laziness. These are the bottom feeders of the 99%. And I would posit they have earned their lowly economic position in life.

Last week, on a rare afternoon outting away from our daughters, my wife and I found ourselves at the Fox Hills Mall in Culver City, excuse me the new Westfield Shopping Center, I forgot they gentrified the place. We had to pick up a few things including a new pair of cross training shoes for my upcoming foray into Shawn T's Insanity Fitness Program.

We sauntered into Foot Locker, which is dominated by a 100-foot deep wall display of sneakers. They have shoes for every imaginable sport, from badminton to New Rules Rugby. In an effort to hasten the shopping experience, I very politely asked a young woman sporting the Foot Locker Polo Shirt, "Can you show me where the cross trainers are?"

She raised her right arm, which in retrospect now seems above and beyond the call of duty, pointed to the further reaches of The Wall and flippantly said, "down there."

Down there, I thought, could you be more specific? Those were the words that would have come out of my mouth had I the proper time to react to her insolence, but she had vanished in the blink of an eye, no doubt to exercise her mandated 15 minute coffee/cigarette/texting break.

My wife and I walked 'down there' along the wall and then continued walking directly out of the store. I was not going to patronize a store that can't be bothered by its customers.

This was not the end of the Down There Incident.

My wife and I continued to talk about it in disbelief on the drive home. She contends it was management's fault for not giving that young lady the proper training. What training, I asked, does it take to attend to customer requests? This women, girl, let's say she was 17, is an employee. She puts on the Foot Locker Shirt. She gets a paycheck. She has a job. At the very, very least she has a responsibility to the customer. To be helpful, courteous and to be of some service. That doesn't require training, that simply requires the acknowledgment that she is employed. The truth is I could have got a more informed response from a fellow customer.

This girl didn't just suck at her job, she sucks at Capitolism. She lacks a fundamental understanding about what it takes to succeed, or even survive, in the work world.

I'll take it even further, I'll say she sucks at Life. She suffers from half-assedness. If would be as if someone stopped me on the sidewalk and asked me, "what time it was?" And I looked at my watch and replied, "Afternoon."

But Karma is a wise lady. I suspect that slapping sneakers on smelly feet will be the apex of this woman's career and she will find herself occupying a desk at the DMV and complaining in perpetuity about how life is so unfair.

Of this, I am 99% sure.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Kodak Moment


As many of you know tomorrow is the last official day of Christmas in Europe, which means there's still time for one more entry about the Caganer.

As many of you also know I'm particularly obsessed with this odd Catalonian custom. Particularly since I discovered it while working at a local ad agency. You see, it was time for another year end sales event for one of the major car brands. I'm always about doing something different so I went in search of unusual winter solstice customs thinking that would make for some cool TV spots.

Wikipedia did not disappoint.

I learned of the ancient Norwegian custom of painting a doorway with butter somehow beckoning the return of the sun. The Austrians have given birth to Krampus, the evil demon Anti-Santa. In typical Teutonic form, people don Krampus costumes, drink beer then roam the streets to beat people with a stick or a rusty bicycle chain. No doubt, their preferred victims were Jews.

But of course being scatologically and sophomorically-inclined, nothing compares with El Caganer. Made even more delightful when you consider I was being paid a King's ransom( day rate) to fully investigate this phenomena.

Recently a friend called this 19-foot high Caganer to my attention. It was spotted at a mall in Barcelona and now holds a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records.

There is much to ponder about this amazing photograph. The enormous scrotal sac. The hairless butt. The perfectly-coiled, 6-foot frozen-yogurt like turd.

But look at the man on the second floor who appears to be snapping a picture of his own. What, pray tell, could be more fascinating than a two story high statue of a naked man taking a dumping in a shopping mall?

That will keep me at night.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Post P90X



BEFORE


AFTER


Four days ago, on Dec. 31, 2011 I officially completed Tony Horton's P90X program. For 90 days I faithfully retreated to my garage for a grueling mixture of weight training, cardio plyometrics and Yoga. Additionally, I amended my long afternoon swims into a high intensity interval sprint swimming and virtually eliminated all processed carbohydrates from my diet.

As you can see the results were astounding. I lost a roll of fat around my belly. And my bra size is now down to a 56 GGG.

OK, those aren't the real pictures. But I'm still not exactly Speedo-ready. However, I did complete the highly-disciplined program. I didn't miss one workout. I lost 12 lbs. in three months. I feel stronger than I have in years. And now I can knock out 7 unassisted pull-ups.

It's a wonderful feeling, particularly when I look back to my personal journal entry on the first day of the experience when I asked myself, "What the hell have I got myself into? I might have bit off more than I can chew."

The truth is, I was sore at the beginning. And many of the moves were challenging and undoable. But as I tell my daughters, persistence is everything. It is more important than talent. More important skill. More important than any blessings given to you by the Flying Spaghetti Monster in the Sky.

Which brings me to the best part of P90X, the infomercials.

Now when I see the ubiquitous Tony Horton and hear his cheesy aphorisms I no longer have to wonder, "Should I pick up the phone and order the DVDs? Can I do all those difficult exercises? Will I look like all ripped and toned like Tony when I'm done?"

Because now I have all the answers.

Yes. Yes. No.






Tuesday, January 3, 2012

People We Need To Kill


Happy New Year.

I'd like to start 2012 with something New, a new themed series -- People We Need To Kill.

If you're a regular reader of roundseventeen you know we have had recurring themed series before. There's the very popular Things Jews Don't Do. There was Famous Directors/Celebrities I Have Worked With. And there was Random Letter Week. Those were short lived themes, populated with just enough entries to merit the word 'series'.

If however you know me and my boundless indignation with the cretins who live in my immediate vicinity (Earth) and share the oxygen I breathe, you know this column will be followed with many, perhaps even more volatile, calls for bloodlust.

First up on my hit list are People Who Text and Drive.

I don't even have the words to describe the feeling I get when I pass a young mom tooling along in her
RX 350 on the Northbound 405 while pinging her yoga classmate about the latest unitard sale at Nordstroms. I only know I have to fight the urge to do a PIT Maneuver and send her and her worthless brood over the railing and into the oncoming traffic of Olympic Blvd.

Weeks ago this anger took on a physical manifestation in the form of a window sticker placed on either side of my car.


As you might expect, the sign produced many howls of laughter from fellow freeway drivers. However it did earn me the scorn of my wife and daughters who refused to ride in the car. It was an admittedly immature gesture. So today I am taking a more rational, more reasoned approach by calling for the immediate death of those who text and drive.

Keep in mind this is no Swiftian exercise in hyperbole, I am dead serious about taking this very important herd-thinning plan of action. In fact I think it should be taken up by the highest powers in the land. Obama doesn't need to swing to the left to recapture his base. He doesn't have to swing to the right to entice new voters. He needs to start swinging the axe and ridding us of these brain-deficient, over-communicators.

Think about this. People who text are anthropological regressionists. They set humankind backward. In the late 1800's, people communicated via the telegraph. They hunted and pecked out their messages and counted on the technology of the day to transfer that message to the recipient. Years later, a Scotsman (thank you very much) invented a telephone so that communication could be conducted with nothing more than a human voice. And now these Cro-Magnons are using that same telephone -- pardon me, a smartphone -- as nothing more than a glorified digital telegraph. And they're doing it while traveling
70 mph in a horseless carriage.

Now let's look at the math. After all, if you're going to be calling for the death of a population segment, your argument should be more than anecdotal.

Last year, there were 32,788 traffic fatalities in the United States. A University of North Texas study concludes that 16% of those fatalities were caused by distracted texters. That's 5246 Americans. And that's just for last year. If you were to add up the numbers for the last ten years, you'd see that people who text and drive are responsible for more American deaths than the Islamic Extremists who flew the planes into the WTC and the Pentagon plus all the soldiers who gave their lives in service to our country in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Pretty sobering isn't it?

Maybe it's too hasty to start assembling firing squads. Maybe a more-measured, more-Saudi Arabian approach is the answer. Maybe we start by lopping off the index fingers of first time offenders.

But I'm not confident forced amputation is the cure for American stupidity. Besides, now I have a teenage daughter who will be sharing the road with these traffic terrorists.

It's time for a pre-emptive strike on people who text and drive.
We need to kill them before they kill us.