Friday, May 31, 2013

No Cannes Do



MEMO TO THE STAFF AT RICH SIEGEL WORLDWIDE

Date: 5/31/13

Re: Cannes

Subject: Cannes't

As many of you know the annual advertising festival celebrating the best and brightest the industry has to offer will soon be upon us. 

As many of you have also heard the sagging economy and the growing demand to meet shareholder expectations have forced many holding companies, and by proxy, their ad agencies, to cut unnecessary expenses and contract their staffing.

In light of these painful measures and in the desire to keep everyone here at Rich Siegel Worldwide gainfully employed, we have decided to suspend this year's trip to southern France.

Before the groaning starts let's stop and consider the consequences.

Sure, it would be nice to soak up the sunshine at Les Rochers while nibbling on stinky cheese and sipping on a $500 bottle of Louis Roederer, but it would leave an awful aftertaste knowing that it came at the expense of someone's mortgage and/or tuition payment.

Sure, it would be fun to turn up the collars on our polo shirts, don a fedora and hang out at the Gutter Bar drinking 100-year old single malt whisky while puffing on a Don Arturo Edicion Aniversario, but it would also be a little tone deaf knowing the account coordinator, who worked so tirelessly this past year, is now slinging and singing at the local Cold Stone Creamery.

And yes, it would be great to pal around with a bunch of hard-drinking, hard-body Brazilians who've made a career out of flashy ads for condoms, bubble gum and novelty socks, but have never faced the daunting challenge of a bank ad or a dealer sales event.

However, the pain of pink slipping so many good decent people makes all that impossible.

We here at Rich Siegel Worldwide want to go to Cannes in the worst possible way.

But out of respect and prudence, we also recognize that going to Cannes would be the worst possible decision.








Thursday, May 30, 2013

I'm losing wisdom



Dear Tooth Fairy,

Thank you for screwing up my life for two weeks.

Thank you for sending me to three different dentists, in three different office buildings, in three different non-validated parking garages.

Thank you for impaling that figurative train spike into my lower jaw and leaving it there until it aggravated my sensitive Trigeminal Nerve.




Thank you for forcing me to eat pureed food and a special sneak preview of what life will be like in my golden years.

Thank you for making me look like a pussy in front of my two daughters, who don't understand my unnatural fear of dental surgery.

Thank you for the sleepless nights and the nightmares about half-assed anesthesiologists and dirty dental equipment.

Here's the cracked Wisdom Tooth (pictured above) you wanted so desperately.

I hope you enjoy it.

Rich


PS. Thank you for the generous supply of Vicodin. With a little planning and some careful rationing I might just make it to my second daughter's high school graduation.




Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Popping off on Popoff


As some of you might know I've started a tumblr and a running collection of odd Kim Jung Un photo's with my own captions. I don't know why I've kept it going, other than the fact that Kim Jung Un, the world's most inept despot, is the gift that keeps on giving.

Through tumblr, I made contact with someone who appears to work for the official North Korean Public Relations Department. He has turned me on to a treasure trove of new, never-seen-before photos, which I will naturally be doctoring for my own twisted purposes.

The other gift that keeps on giving is Rev. Peter Popoff.

He runs a TV ministry and is currently scamming thousands of people out of millions of dollars. He keeps his faithful not with the promises of salvation and eternal companionship with the Almighty, but with the empty hope that Jesus will somehow bestow great wealth upon his flock for following his arcane instructions.

Posing as the deceased English teacher who used to live in my house, I started a correspondence with the Popoff ministry. This relationship has paid off with surprising dividends. Nothing in the way of spiritual or financial enlightenment, but dividends nonetheless.

Take the packet of special Holy Land Anointing Oil (see above). It has a nice jasmine scent to it. I'm going to anoint my jacuzzi with this divine oil with the hope that it spreads the lord's tidings all over my swarthy Jewish body.

Speaking of Jews and appropriating Jewish culture, check out the replica of Joshua's Shofar, used to command the troops in the 7 Great Battles.


You may scoff at this diminutive trumpet, but I am confident that the sounding of this priestly instrument will summon the armies of righteousness to my side. And that I, Ruby Shipp, dead for more 20 years, will be "blessed with the wealth miracle of multiplication."

Wow, you must be thinking, Holy Anointing Oil AND a Shofar, how can Popoff stay in business giving away all these precious adornments of God? Well, that's what great men who have been called to the Lord's service do. They give. They don't take. They give until it hurts.

In his last mailing, the Prophet Popoff wrote, "Take this Holy Anointing Prosperity Bar of Soap. Wash the devil right out of your life and release a new beginnings covenant of supernatural provision upon your life for the rest of this year!"

That's some powerful stuff, I'm not sure however that the Prosperity Bar of Soap had not been used before...


As I was scrubbing the area between my oversized toes, the Holy Anointing Prosperity Bar of soap slipped from hands and disappeared down the drain.

I'm hoping it gets me enough prosperity to the end of June and the last payment on my daughter's private school.



Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Mikey!!!


McDonalds doesn't make a habit of running commercials about the Whopper.

BMW doesn't rave about the handling ability of the Mercedes S Class.

And Apple doesn't like talking about the new Windows tablet. Though I will say the recent spot for it, done in a clean, competitive manner, has a lot going for it.

So it doesn't really make sense for me to speak glowingly about one of my copywriting colleagues/competitors.  Particularly now, when work is a bit slow. But playing by the rules has never been of my strengths.

A couple of weeks ago, Victor and Spoils, an ad agency built on the crowdsourcing model (I'll save my thoughts on that for another post) paid tribute to Michael Collado, a young copywriter who used to work for me at Chiat/Day in 1997 (Best. Advertising Year. Ever.)

Because of his prodigious contributions as a freelance writer, they had an oil painting commissioned on Mikey's behalf.

The painting (seen above) hangs in the V&S corporate conference room.

I'm sure it's quite the conversation starter. But it's also a subtle reminder to the creatives working at V&S that they had better stay on their game.

You see Michael Collado is an advertising machine. He has 10 ideas before the briefing has started. He can knock out a hundred headlines before the planner reaches the USP. He'll fill a deck before you can fill your second cup of coffee.

You know that guy who flies in a helicopter over a major world city and then draws the skyline completely from memory? Well, Mikey can't do that. But if that guy ever went into business and wanted to sell his drawings, he would be the advertising savant for the job.

But make no mistake, he is not just about quantity, though it is hard to believe he can write so much and so fast without hurting his fingers, the quality is there as well. In fact last year I wrote about his incredible talking head campaign for Charles Schwab that still stands the test of time.

So why haven't you heard of Michael Collado?

The truth is he scares Creative Directors. He does the kind of bold, disruptive, make-your-hair-stand-on-end kind of work that they blather on about in internal meetings or the week after returning from Cannes, but shy away from when there's an actual client at the table. Mikey was writing Skittles/Old Spice Man/Kayak absurdist type spots before those spots ever hit the airwaves.

Gerry Graf should book a flight to Tamba Bay and not leave until he has a signed contract with Mr. Collado.

As you might have guessed I'm a huge fan.

On my portfolio page I jokingly sign off with:

Rich Siegel
@Three writers for the price of two.

If Collado were to rip me off, and I know he wouldn't, he could legitimately use:

Michael Collado
@A hundred writers for the price of one.







Thursday, May 23, 2013

As good as new


This is just not something you're going to see everyday, a rear windshield constructed solely from duct tape.

Actually, that may not be 100% accurate. If you'll look closely, in the center, you'll see some blue painter's tape. Perhaps this mobile MacGuyver was running out. Or perhaps he put it there as a spot of color, to break the pattern. A safety measure, as it were.

I'm no stranger to the ubiquitous powers of duct tape. I've used it to patch a hole on a bicycle tire. I've jerry-rigged a new duct tape hinge for the old refrigerator in the garage. And once I used it to wrap up a diaper when my wife was out of town on a business trip.

It's a magical, classless, wonder tool, favored by hillbillies and affluent homeowners alike.

If I may paraphrase Homer Simpson: Duct tape, is there anything it can't do?

Duct tape a has a lot going for it. It's durable. It's inexpensive. It's flexible. It's fast. And it's impervious to the elements. One thing it's not however, is invisible. And this, to me, is the most important attribute one should look for in a windshield replacement.

This may be a stretch, but in many ways this is what is wrong with advertising today.

We come up with these voluminous decks that check off so many boxes. Work that is digital, social, and engaging. Work that is media agnostic, holistic, and synergistic. Work that is on time, on task, and on point.

We do the kind of work that appears to check off every single box on the deliverables list. Except the work fails miserably at the one job it was intended to do: to sell stuff or services.

I keep picturing Joe Handyman putting the finishing touches on this duct tape masterpiece and handing the car keys to his girlfriend. She starts up the car, adjusts the rear mirror and turns to him...

"It's nice and all, but I can't see shit."

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Blame it on the Juice


Seems everywhere I turn people are ridding their bodies of harmful, impacted fecal matter. Aren't you glad I didn't go with a photo of that?

They're juicing. Foregoing any solid food in favor of vitamin-enhanced, mineral-fortified, soupy-textured juices. I'm sure you've run into one of these evangelists or overheard one at the gym, because they can't seem to stop talking about their juice.


"I feel so much more energetic."


"It's like I'm getting in touch with my inner core."


"You should see the size and color of my poops...."


OK, slow down there Grasshopper.

Save the new-agey pep talks for someone less acquainted with the natural functions of the digestive system. You see while I agree we all have many unwanted poisons and toxins, we also happen to have kidneys and the liver, organs which effectively "detoxify" the body.

No juice concocted by some hemp-wearing, hookah-smoking hippie in Topanga Canyon is going to do a better job, in a week no less, than the human body, which has evolved over the course of millions of years.

Besides, I get enough fasting experience once a year during the oh-so-joyful holiday of Yom Kippur. I don't ingest any food or any drink for close to 26 hours with the hope that all my sins will be absolved by a giant Sky Judge that I don't even believe exists.

That's enough digestive flights of fancy for this non-believer. So I won't be juicing anytime soon. Not while there are still T-Bone steaks on the shelves at the supermarket. And pregnant burritos still being served at El Nopal.

And as far as that waste matter impacted against the sides of my intestinal walls, my feeling is, out-of-sight, out-of-mind.





Tuesday, May 21, 2013

You can begin now


A few weeks ago I had the very pleasant experience of working with another writer. As many of you know, this is usually not the case. Most times I am teamed up with an art director, and I count many among my friends. Or I fly solo, which I also enjoy. (Hint: that's foreshadowing.)

So while pairing writers may be common in the TV or film industry, it's not a standard practice in advertising. Though it's certainly an idea that has some merit.

In any case, if you put two writers in the room you're going to get stories. And somehow we came around to my experience with Southern California's whack shacks and our failed attempt to add a son to the Siegel family tree.

As a family of four, my wife and I were blessed with two healthy, beautiful daughters. It was, by all accounts perfect. Except I had always pictured myself raising a son. Going to ballgames, rough housing, farting, being rude and crude, and most importantly, exerting my overbearing will on every aspect of his life, not unlike the way my father had done to me.

And with a little help from modern day technology, that dream was within reach.

I had done my research and found a very credible organization in Westwood that helped young couples with previous fertility issues and provided sex selection options.

I'll spare you all the gynecological details -- mostly because my wife would kill me -- but when the time came (ovulation) I was to rush to the Westwood laboratory for a "seed collection."

I had done this before when we were initially conceiving our first child and had been privy to many various set ups on the west side of Los Angeles.

There was the swanky lab in Beverly Hills that had a VHS player and a massive collection of just- released porn. There was a dingy doctor's office off Pico Blvd that had a crappy selection of old skin magazines. And there was the hospital room turned whack shack at Cedar's Sinai with a sad handful of retro porn from 1970's, boom chicka baum baum.

On a cold Sunday morning in 2002, my wife informed me it was time to run over to Westwood. I had been looking forward to some NFL playoffs but a man had to do what a man had to to do.

I jumped in the car and made my way up Overland Ave. When I arrived, the place was empty. There was only myself and a nurse, a very attractive nurse, who smiled at me knowing exactly the purpose of my visit. She greeted me, had me fill out some paperwork and then handed me the plastic cup in which I was to deposit my potential son.

Of course I made a joke about needing a larger cup and she threw me a sympathy chuckle.
Then she led me to a room in the back and said I should lock the door, which I found a bit redundant.

There were no magazines, or VHS tapes or even DVDs, there was only a small TV monitor that came to life the minute I shut the door. Followed by a nonstop barrage of clips. It was erotica, make no mistake. But each clip ran 7-10 seconds. I thought it was trailer. So I let it run and "built" up my anticipation for the feature.

A minute passed.
Then another.
Then another.

After about ten minutes, I carefully cracked the door open and told the nurse:

"You can start the movie now."  

There was a pregnant pause.

She replied, "that is the movie."

Followed by a noticeable giggle.

Which, if you hadn't already guessed, increased the mission's degree of difficulty exponentially.

I closed the door and resumed the hand-to-gland combat. And left the lab with some serious egg on my face. Unfortunately, the repeated expensive trips to the seed collection room did not produce a son.

But it did produce a very funny story. Which I'm sure that nurse has told over and over again.




Monday, May 20, 2013

From Mad Men to Sad Men


I've got be careful not to date myself here.
I referenced Mad Men in the title but I did not work in advertising on Madison Avenue in the 1960's. I'm much younger than that.

I did catch the tail end of a different golden era of the industry, when excess ruled the day and nothing was too good for the folks in the Creative Department. (In my Homer Simpson voice: "Mmmmmm, agency-issued credit cards.")

For instance, on my first day as a real copywriter at a real ad agency I was escorted by a woman from the Human Resources Department to my very first office. This was not an office I was sharing with an art director, she had her own office. This was my office.

And it was magnificent.

Located on the 18th floor of a Century City high rise, the office had floor-to-ceiling windows with an incredible view of the Santa Monica Bay, provided it wasn't smoggy or there was no June Gloom. It sported a long leather couch, I won't even speculate. And even had a small round table for kibitzing. The desk had its own credenza, a word I immediately had to look up in the dictionary.

It was, by today's standards, palatial.

In fact, you could cram the entire staff of a digital boutique agency into the square footage of that office. And still have room for a couple of dinosaurs, you know old school brand guys like myself, to crank out the TV campaigns or any print ads that actually required writing.

It was a far cry from what I find today.

Where instead of offices, creative people are assigned seats at a long communal work table. And are expected to deliver breakthrough ideas -- faster and cheaper -- while working within spitting distance of other creatives who seem to nourish themselves on nothing but curry-based meals, morning, noon and night.

Have I painted a not-so-pretty picture?
Well, the indignity does not end there.

Because at this long communal work table, there's always the guy with the $500 portable speakers that can plug into a laptop and fill the room with the always-pleasant, easy-listening sound of house music or hip-hop.

Unhhhh. Unhhhhh.

My understanding is that in order to avoid being tortured with this kind of "music", prisoners at Guantanamo Bay have opted for the less odious waterboarding.

That's not the only audio assault. You see, despite wearing the most expensive sound canceling headphones manufactured by Bose, the over-the-ear QC 15's, there's no drowning out the non-stop zealous chorus of youthful corporate camaraderie:

"That's dope, bro!" 

Heard, not five or ten times in the course of a day, but somewhere in the neighborhood of 138.

Ironically, it's a sentiment I'd like echoed to the agency brass who believe this is the best environment for billion dollar brand stewardship.

"That's dope!", I'd say straight faced without any hint of the hipster connotation, "really dope."












Thursday, May 16, 2013

Blondie Revisited


This is the way the world works.

In 1997, I travel to Atlanta to give a speech to up-and-coming ad students. That night, my first ever in the Peach State, I'm escorted to an unofficial city landmark called the Clermont Lounge, where I am treated to an unusual cocktail of kitschy humor and bad erotica.

15 years later, I am reminded of that bacchanalia by an email from one of the students, who generously penned me a detail account of a night I thought I had lost to Jack Daniels.

Two months ago, I shared this tale in a posting here on roundseventeen, entitled Blondie Fondly.

And last week, as if by providence, I caught the last half of Anthony Bourdain's Layover, in which he visits all the best that Atlanta has to offer. Naturally, including his eventful stop at the Clermont.




With this posting I've already violated the unofficial man code that states, "Thou shalt not recount any activities that might occur on a visit to a strip club."

Though one could legitimately argue the Clermont Lounge is hardly a strip club.

But it is safe to say I will not be writing about gentlemen's clubs anytime soon. Not because I'm worried about tarnishing my reputation, such as it is. But  because I stopped frequenting these establishments a long, long time ago.

Frankly, they feel like stationary bikes. You get all worked up and in the end, you haven't gone anywhere.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Before and Afghanistan


I don't belong to many groups on Facebook.

In general, I'm not a group person. If a bunch of people are doing something or collectively liking something, my tendency is not to do it and definitely not to like it.

I don't even know how I got roped into any groups on FB. But I do receive updates from something called the Global Secular Humanist Movement. And again, I'm not big on movements, unless they are my own.

Last week, they caught my attention with the photo you see above.

A pretty stark, if not overly simplistic (my favorite kind of simplistic), depiction of the country in which we have invested billions of dollars and more importantly, lost hundreds of US soldiers.

There was also a link to a larger article from the Denver Post, a photojournalistic exploration of Afghanistan from the 1960's by Dr. William Podlich, a professor who began a stint with UNESCO based in Kabul.

You can visit the article, but I've taken the liberty of pulling some of the more interesting pictures that show us an Afghanistan before the destructive forces of Islamic extremism.






Of course you can't paint an accurate picture of a country with a just a few photographs, But Dr. Podlich shows us a country of natural beauty. And of a people who seem to be on the road to progress.

I can't help contrasting these images with those of grown men throwing acid in the faces of little girls going to school. Of corrupt Afghani war lords taking our hard earned money and funneling it to the Taliban. Of fathers beating and killing their daughters in the name of some Neanderfuck definition of "honor."

Frankly, it makes me sick.

As you might have guessed this post isn't going to end with a typical funny quip.

However it did occur to me that maybe religious people, all religious people, have it backwards. If the Almighty Being they worship so fervently, allows this kind evil to prevail, and flourish, and destroy everything good in its path, maybe their God isn't the God of Light but actually the Prince of Darkness.

Maybe the religious zealots on this planet are the real Satanists.




Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Finger Lickin' Bad


It's been a while since I've done a post about some odd thing I've photographed. But it appears I've done way too much pontificating about advertising, politics, Jews and the joys of parenthood, that it's long overdue.

I spotted this van in the parking lot at Bristol Farms in Westchester.

I go there for lunch almost everyday following my daily almost-mile swim. My wife calls me an annoying creature of habit. I like to think of it as a demonstration of persistence and discipline.

In any case, that's where I spotted this minivan advertising the services of the Sauce Goddess, who flies under the banner, "if you don't lick your fingers, someone else will."

Not the most appetizing imagery.

I'm pretty sure I won't taking the sauce goddess up on her promise. You see when it comes to sauces, BBQ, salsa, and sundry condiments, I prefer they not be made in someone's jerry-rigged kitchen or low rent garage.

In fact, I like my foodstuff's the way I like my prescription grade narcotic medicines, made in a factory, under the watchful eye of the FDA.

Besides, no tomato sauce could ever be so good that my wife, or my daughters, or any of my friends would willingly jam my hand into their pie-hole any time soon.

After all, they know where those fingers have been.

Monday, May 13, 2013

What the f*#K is going on around here?



There's something disturbing going on in the world of advertising.

No, I'm not talking about the major holding companies who put out glowing shareholder financial reports with the hopes of generating additional investors and then, in the same breath, tell the employees there's no money for raises. Or bonuses. Or any of that soft one-ply toilet paper for the rest rooms.

No, I'm not referring to the 40-foot long communal workspace tables. "With all of us working at the same table there will be a greater, open exchange of ideas and greater creativity."

And no, I'm not pointing the finger at the human resources folks who have come to believe that professional writers are a frivolous luxury that a well-run ad agency can do without.

I'm talking about a certain zeitgeist that has infiltrated our industry and has reared its ugly head on multi media platforms: the euphemising of the word fucking.

Am I out of my fucking mind you ask?

Exhibit A. Take a look at this commercial for booking.com from the very talented people at Weiden & Kennedy. They singled out and captured that moment of vacation anxiety that we have all experienced with stunning accuracy. But then they rolled out the cheap expletives, or the expletive substitutes. And my appreciation for the spot went out the window. The window facing the air conditioning units and the parking lot. Not the one facing the turquoise blue ocean.

Of course, one example a zeitgeist does not make.

Exhibit B. Here's a screen grab from a Del Taco website.


I've never eaten at Del Taco, but I'll bet it's Unfreshingbelievable.

Exhibit C. This one comes to us compliments of the folks at Philips who have designed and manufactured an electric razor so revolutionary it will have me looking in the mirror and think: I'd do me. Or something to that effect.


It also occurs to me that if you're a guy investing your time on a website about portable shavers, I seriously doubt anyone will want to FAQ you, FIQ you, FEQ you, or otherwise.

How pervasive is this new low-brow trend?

Well, a signed NDA prevents me from disclosing the ad, but two weeks ago I found myself writing outdoor board lines and I succumbed to this phenomena, cleverly using a fucking euphemism to describe a competitor's product.

There are many other examples, but the roundseventeen research budget has been cut in half so the proceeds could be sent upstairs to the holding company to pay for a new company yacht. So if you're still interested you'll have to find them for your own fucking self.


Friday, May 10, 2013

"This chair is just right."



The Kim Jung Fun tumblr has grown by reaps and bounds.

http://kimjungfun.tumblr.com

He is the 30-year old despot gift that keeps on giving.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Single and ready to mingle

One of the best things about being a freelance writer is the the opportunity to work on a wide variety of assignments. Just this year I've worked on luxurious luxury cars, fast food, an online university, a real estate company and promos for a new TV show starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.

And it's only May.

While we're on the topic on variety, years ago, one of my many art director partners and I were called in to work on a brand assignment for e-Harmony.com. This was not all that surprising since most people in the industry associate me with romance, love and an insightful understanding of the dynamic between a man and a woman.

Being new to the brand, we were both told that we would be required to open up an e-Harmony account so that we would have first hand experience with the service. It was all in the name of research. And far from objecting to that stipulation, my wife was actually all gung-ho about it.

I think she wanted to see if there were any other women on this earth, brain-damaged or not, who would willingly subject themselves to me.

I was curious, too. Since I had been married long before the whole Internet dating phenomena; an arena  that seems to have been custom made for a copywriter with a sense of humor and a proclivity for self-deprecation. Not to mention I had a shoebox full pictures of myself competing in triathlons.

But alas, those questions remain unanswered.

24 hours after starting the assignment, my partner and I were unceremoniously dumped from the e-Harmony project. No one explained why, but we were both given a healthy "kill" fee, so no one had to.

Then I got to thinking.

Lately, I've been seeing a lot of ads on my Facebook page for ChristianMingle.com. ("Find God's Match For You"). What if I married my Internet dating curiosity with my fascination for sky chief fairy tales.

So, again with my wife's blessing, the plan was to sign up for a membership, fill out a profile and see who Jesus would set me up with for a movie and maybe a late night dinner at Paco's.

But as I was painting the picture of Richard David, a recently-divorced lawyer who enjoys swimming, BBQ food, action movies, and weekly visits to the nearby Lutheran Church, I started having second thoughts.

Sure, initially it would be good for a laugh. But what if, by some divine miracle, some lonely woman actually did show some interest in my fake profile. And what if, after getting her hopes so ridiculously high, she were to find out I was actually a Jew.

And an atheist.

And most devastating of all, unavailable.

I didn't have the heart for that, so I abandoned the mission.
Because to continue would just be doing the Devil's work.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Dear Anonymous


One of my greatest disappointments with this blog is the lack of dialogue.

That is, very few of you take the time to leave a comment and share your thoughts on what I've just shared. If a particular piece sparks a reaction, it's usually posted on Facebook.

That's not to say it never happens. Recently, a simple posting I did on gay marriage rights produced a spirited thread, with replies numbering in the three digit range. Not to mention some very heated and polarizing rhetoric.

I enjoy this kind of verbal sparring, particularly when it involves other writers, OK, copywriters, in the ad business. After years of persuading unsuspecting consumers to buy a certain car, or dish soap, or athletic shoe, it's fun to apply that same skill set and try to sway people to a different point of view.

Of course moving people off their long held political stances is a lot more difficult than getting them to try a Chalupa. Take for instance this anonymous commenter who recently left me this nugget:


I'm the first to admit that I criticize Islam, possibly in a politically incorrect or even insensitive manner, I don't feel like I have to be tolerant of intolerance. But I would like to point out the stupidity of Dave's/Fred's/Joe's/Phil's/Mike's remarks. I don't know his name because this commenter chose to remain anonymous, apparently lacking any courage of his convictions.

Because what amuses me is that he chose to leave this little missive on a recent post I did about the absurd Orthodox Jew who boarded an airplane and then enclosed himself in a plastic bag to avoid being contaminated by any dead spirits.  

Furthermore,  if ill-informed Anonymous were to read a random sampling of R17, he'd find I've taken plenty of opportunity to "make fun of Jews". Plenty, indeed. Including my popular Things Jews Don't Do series, my annual skewering of Passover/Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur, and countless references to old Jews who send the cold soup back to the kitchen.

More interesting however is how Anonymous equates the two phrases: "make fun of jews or call out israel on their bullshit." The two are not the same. Or so I am told by my many ultra-liberal, "Co-Exist-Happy" friends who say... 

"Isn't it possible for me to be Anti-Israel without being Anti-Semitic?"

It is possible. Assuming you have some very nuanced thinking and a more-than-perfunctory knowledge of the history in that region as well as a thorough understanding of the Diaspora and 3,000 years of religious persecution. Also assuming you can agree that Jews building a townhome on disputed land is not the moral equivalent of a terrorist bashing in the head of a 4-year old with the butt of a rifle. 

Sure, it's possible, it's just not very probable. 









Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Look at the size of that deck


It's only 4 months into the year and I've already worked on assignments for 8 different agencies.

These agencies vary in size, billings, philosophy, and most importantly, proper ergonomic seating. Note to office managers: if it's not Herman Miller, it's crap.

What all these agencies have in common however is a whiteboard room. And an inexorable need to fill these white boards with arrows, shapes, diagrams and non-sensical sentence fragments that pose as insight.

I've never met anyone who walked into one of these rooms, navigated the board and walked out saying, "I know exactly what to do."

Ever.

Of course, this monumental waste of energy is dwarfed by today's presentation deliverable lists. You'd swear these were being written by Tolstoy.

You see, in order to prove '©360degreeability' or '©agnosticmediasynergy' or '©digitalprowess', ad agencies now prepare mammoth presentations, with everything from TV campaigns to "here's what we'll be live tweeting on your behalf in August 2015."

In these tenuous economic times I certainly understand the need to over deliver, but I believe the pendulum has become unhinged and flown out of control.

It's as if an architect were asked to present three distinctive building designs. And in addition to a 3D model, an environmental impact report, and a substantive report on the footprint of the building, he or she was also asked to provide a recommendation for paint colors for the inside of the electrical room.

Best of all, after all the work has been ideated, created, tweaked, edited, re-edited, polished and whittled down to a 229-page deck, there's always the inevitable phone call from the client. The Executive Assistant will inform the agency that, "CEO has to hop on a plane so the meeting can only go 45 minutes, be prepared to zip through the work."

This doesn't happen at one place or another.
It happens everywhere.
Everyday.
It's happening right now as you're reading this blog.

It's a far cry from advertising's better days when we would go into a presentation with far, far less work.

Not because we couldn't come up with more ideas for a meeting.
But because we understood that clients couldn't process too many ideas in a meeting.






Monday, May 6, 2013

Smells like teen angst


Dodged a major bullet last week.

Santa Monica Catholic High School (I feel a slight hypocritical atheist twinge every time I write those words) where my faithless daughters go to school, is getting ready for this year's Junior Prom.

And if you hadn't already guessed it's quite the big deal.

Not the same kind of big deal it was when we attended high school back in the 20th century. But nevertheless, important. You see, today's kids are much more nonchalant about pivotal, or even seemingly pivotal, high school moments.

When I asked my daughter if some boy, or girl, that's perfectly acceptable too, had asked her to the prom she shook her head no. She appeared more upset when the folks at Chipotle ran out of guacamole.

My daughter is a pretty cool cucumber and handles stress much better than I ever did. Her grace no doubt comes from my wife's side of the family. Nevertheless I couldn't help imagining her at home on the night of the prom, alone, crying, pitching a fit and punching holes in the drywall.

But, as I alluded to earlier, none of that is going to happen.

Three days ago, a very nice boy -- according to the gabby moms we ran into at a school play -- had asked Rachel to the prom. And he did it with a small bouquet of flowers, no less. While my daughter was pleasantly surprised, it's safe to say my wife and I were exponentially more exuberant about what had just transpired.

Many deep breaths and cocktails were had that night.

I suspect this is why parents say raising teenagers is so difficult. It's not about their raging hormones. Or their stupid decisions. Or even their inherent sloppiness and irresponsibility.

It's all about their angst.
And how it becomes your angst.
I'm here to tell you, it's not any better the second time.







Thursday, May 2, 2013

Water Buffalo, it's what's for dinner.


I don't watch a lot of TV.

And when I do, I'm a sucker for anything involving World War II (sometimes "war is the answer"), survival shows (including the newest Naked Castaway) and nature shows.

You would think that of those three categories, the last would be most pleasing on the eyes, after all it doesn't involve genocide or a nude British soldier parading his naughty bits around for 60 minutes. But you'd be wrong.

Because Mother Nature can be a cold, heartless bitch.

Last week I watched a show about animals that have evolved into perfect killing machines. It was fascinating, except for the part about the actual killing.

You see, I'm very squeamish and can't stand the sight of blood. I had to watch a good deal of the show with my palm blocking the majority of the screen until the prey had been brought down. And even that wasn't enough, as they showed some hyenas chomping on a poor water buffalo, while he was still alive and kicking.

My heart goes out to that water buffalo.

But oddly enough, I also have empathy for the hyenas and their pups. After all if their parents don't secure a kill, they will suffer a long, agonizing death by starvation.

It's a no-win, no-lose proposition.
And it's the way nature keeps everything in balance.

All this carnivorous activity reminds me of a newspaper headline I wrote for Outback restaurants years ago:

If God didn't want us to eat steak,
he wouldn't have made cows so easy to catch.



Wednesday, May 1, 2013

There will be no blood


It's been a while since I've written about Muslim extremism, but in light of the events in Boston I think it's worth revisiting.

Last week, Bill Maher asked one of the guests on his show if he thought it was possible to stage a Broadway show that was the equivalent of the Book of Mormon. That is, what would have happened had Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the show's creators, had produced a satirical musical called The Book of Mohammad.

The answer is self evident.

There would be blood on the streets. A lot more blood that ran after the Jyllands-Posten published 12 "offensive" cartoons of Mohammed. There would be effigies, flag-burnings, and death threats all across the globe, from the streets of Dearborn, Michigan to the back alleyways of Jakarta.

The response would be immediate. It would be vocal. And it would be intense. In other words, it would be everything the Islamic community was not following the massacre in Boston.

This is not to insinuate that Muslims have a responsibility to repudiate any act of terrorism done in the name of Islam. They don't. Anymore than the entire Christian community has to apologize for the actions of abortion clinic bombers.

What I am saying is that in the battle for hearts and minds, the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing was a huge missed PR opportunity for the people at CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

They should have organized street rallies. Started special fund raising efforts. And produced public service announcements distancing their religion from the people who commit heinous acts in the name of it.

That's how you defeat Islamaphobia, counterbalance extremism, and sway public opinion about the religion of peace.

We heard more from the deranged, shop-lifting Mama Jihadi of these underachieving assclowns than we did from any representative of moderate Islam.

There was rumor that the satanists who follow Fred Phelps and the Westboro Church were going to picket the funeral of the 8-year old who was killed at the finish line. Think about the good will that would have been generated if instead of U.S. Teamsters, 1000 Muslim men who wanted to improve the image of Islam in America, volunteered to block that effort.

A missed opportunity is all I'm saying.