Friday, August 30, 2013

Syria-ously


(In light of the deteriorating situation in Syria, I've decided to re-run a piece I wrote August 17, 2011. Since that time we've seen two regime changes in Egypt and the death of more than 100,000 Muslims, killed by, other Muslims. With that in mind, my modest proposal still seems valid and frankly makes a lot more sense than the administration's misguided plan to start launching Cruise missiles.)



We are now nearing the end of summer and the Arab Spring has failed to produce much of a harvest. In addition to the centuries-old Sunni-Shia rift, there's the rise of fundamental Islamism that continues to wreak havoc from Libya to Pakistan. Not to mention West Africa. The light at the end of the tunnel seems to be an oncoming train.

But what if that oncoming train were not a train but an Israeli tank?

I know it's beyond the imagination of 350 million Arabs who can't see past the tip of their broadsword, but consider how Jewish rule of the entire region could bring peace and prosperity to an area of the world that has seen neither.

First the obvious -- Oil.

At the current $85 barrel, the countries of the Middle East are sitting on trillions and trillions of dollars worth of natural resources. That wealth is wasted by tasteless sheiks who think it's classy to make a doody on a solid 24K gold toilet.

If you'll forgive some of my fellow tribesmens' awful affinity for bad Judaica, it's a fair bet that tremendous amount of money would be spent on better things like hospitals, roads and schools-- not Madrassas, with only one book, but real schools where 21st century learning would trump the current 7th century edumucation (intentional misspelling).

Freedom of Speech.

It can't go unnoticed that while Syrians are dying in the streets, yearning for the right to speak their mind, other Syrians, those living in the Israeli-governed Golan Heights, are free to go about their business without fear of being gunned down in the middle of the night. Even if their business is about badmouthing the government of Israel.

You know, for the atrocious "apartheid" conditions they live in.

How free is freedom of speech in Israel? You might recall that years ago, the Iranian government sponsored a Holocaust Cartoon contest. A despicable display of blatant anti-Semitism. Not to be outdone, an Israeli company, Dimona Comix, sponsored the Israeli Anti-Semitic Cartoon Contest. Not one government official came knocking at the door with a cease and desist.

And finally, at least for the sake of brevity, Peace.

Before Muslims started killing other Muslims, just because it was a Monday. Or there was nothing good on TV. Or any other reason, they don't seem to need a good one, they were killing Jews. Consequently, the Israelis got real adept at stopping these internal insurgencies. Is there any doubt the IDF would put the kabash on such nonsense?

And while Arab cultures were stoning homosexuals or rape victims, Jews saw fit to give women equal rights, forbid honor killings and allow gays to serve in the military.

Under a united Israeli rule, the hundred or so sects of Islam would be free to peacefully practice their own religion. Just the way they do today in the Jewish sliver of a country, Israel.

Of course, none of this is going to happen. It would be a monumental affront to Arab pride. I'm not sure what it is exactly they are so proud of. I'll have do some more research and get back to you on that.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Checking in



Something extraordinary happened this week.

And when I say extraordinary, I mean something "Old School". And of course when I say "old school" I mean better.

Allow me to explain.
To the extent that I can and without violating any NDAs.

My partner and I are working on a project for a NY ad agency. A big one. The project is fun. It's open-ended. And it's huge, meaning they want a huge solution.  We did a couple of small conference calls, then a larger briefing over the phone and then we were sent a schedule for the first check in.

Which was in five days. FIVE DAYS!!!

This is unheard of. Many agencies want to do the initial check in after 5 hours.

Some of the snootier agencies, who wear their "edginess" on their sleeves insist on check ins every 5 minutes. I decided I'd rather make money trading penny stocks than to go work at a creative abattoir like that.

The extraordinary occurrence?

One day my partner, Dave Gassman and I were sitting at the Crave Coffee shop in Sherman Oaks. And in between ogling the waitresses and the gaggle of wannabe porn stars that walked in, he suggested an idea for a campaign. We talked about it. Discussed its positives and its negatives. And then we decided to shelve it.

We moved on to other, more promising directions.

Then, two days later, while stuck in a paralyzing traffic jam on the 405 (a redundant phrase if there ever was one) I had the kind of synapse connection that only comes when afforded the time to stew. What if we twisted my partner's idea and did such and such -- the details are unimportant.

What is important is that an idea, a valuable commodity, was rescued from the waste bin only because nobody was holding a gun to our head and saying, "Make with the creativity we have shareholders to appease."

This is the way the process works.
I'm sorry, let me say that old school-style.
This is the way the process used to work.

I'm going to leave you with an important video on this matter. I've shown it here before but I'll show it again because I'm pressed for time. I have to write an anthem spot for a new client in Australia.

It's due end of day today which, if I understand the International dateline and the mechanics of time zones, is already last week.









Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Vodka, neeeeat!


The family was in town this week.

Of course, when I say family I mean my wife's family. The Siegel branch of the family tree has undergone some heavy pruning. And is quite dysfunctional. So we don't discuss it here.

My wife's clan however is large and boisterous. At some point during last week's group August birthday bash there were two or more members of the Siegel/Weinblatt/O'Connor/Bargar/Mansinni's in each of the nine rooms of my house. Ranging in age from 4 to 84.

The following morning there were enough empty beer, wine and rum bottles in my recycling bin to shame a Dublinner.

As the card above indicates, Jews are not particularly associated with alcohol. In fact, in a recent study by Columbia University, "Reports show a relatively high prevalence of ADH*2 in Jewish samples...explaining the low rates of alcoholism in this group."

I don't know where these ivy tower researchers are getting their samples, but I know it's not anywhere near my house in Culver City.

I'm surrounded by The Chosen Ones who've chosen to knock back a few.

I believe it all has to do with geography.

My sister-in-law and her crew are from Boston. They look like Bostonians, talk like Bostonians, and they drink like Bostonians. Particularly anytime there's a sporting event with the Sawwwx, the Celtics or the Bruins. Which pretty much covers 12 months of the year.

We also spend considerable time with friends from South Africa. At one time there was a large Jewish population in Johannesburg. But if I'm not mistaken they have ALL moved to Southern California. And brought their unquenchable thirst with them. Their idea of a good party starts at sundown and reluctantly ends at sunrise.

And me? Well, I'm first generation American. My mother was from Glasgow. And was never far from her beloved Heineken beer. And my father was a tough street Jew from the Bronx, who fell in love with a Scottish lass as well as Scottish whiskey. He was never far from his white coffee mug and two fingers worth of Johnny Walker Red.

Thankfully, and perhaps this is where the researchers at Columbia got it right, I don't know of any problems associated with our collective drinking. We don't fight. We don't go into raging fits. And we don't binge. OK, occasionally we binge but never near the good china or with the expensive glassware.

The point is, we're Jews that happen to like alcohol.
And fortunately, it likes us back.

L'chaim!




Tuesday, August 27, 2013

She's a witch


I hate magic shows.

Years ago, some friends invited my wife and I to the Magic Castle in Hollywood. We declined. I'm pretty sure we stayed home to snake the toilets that night. Much more pleasurable.

You know who else doesn't like magic? The entire country of Saudi Arabia. They've outlawed it. Which means Saudi Arabia could be the perfect place for me to live. Except, that in addition to witchcraft, they have an aversion to Judaism. They outlawed that too.

I ran across an article in The Atlantic, about the Saudi's fascination with witchcraft and their aggressive crackdown on Crimes of Magic. You read that correctly, Crimes of Magic, a distinctively 7th Century phrase right there on your 21st century computer, laptop or smartphone.

In fact, The Saudi's, displaying incredible enlightenment, have literally funded -- presumably with revenue from our oil purchases -- a special division of the police dedicated to eradicating magic and hunting down witches.

Don't think for a moment that I am exaggerating.

You see "practicing magic and sorcery is a desecration of the Holy Quran." And I think we all know how important that Quran book is.

One crazy Florida preacher burns a Quran and millions of its followers take to the streets. Of course when the Syrian government, supposedly a Quran-loving people kills 100,000 other Quran-loving people, we don't hear a peep.

But how can I make sense of Islamic logic when one senior cleric, working hand in hand with the Magic Police states, "some magicians may ride a broom and fly in the air with the help of supernatural beings."

It's a remarkable article. And I urge you to read it. It will give you a better understanding of Saudi Arabia and it will shed light on why peace in that area of the world is so elusive.

That aside, we all know journalism today is not what journalism used to be.

So I dug deeper into this story and found what the reporters at The Atlantic didn't.

An actual training film used by Saudi Law Enforcement:




Monday, August 26, 2013

We've been homaged


A few weeks ago I was working with my former partner, Laura Sweet, on a pitch for Roku.

Naturally, before we could move forward to a possible re-positioning, we had to look backwards to see what they had done and where they had been.

Well, that was an eye-opener, because where they were in 2013 is where we were in 1997. With our now famous/infamous work for ABC.

The Roku campaign was done by a small agency in San Francisco dubbed Division of Labor. Ironic, if you want to call copying a campaign out of the awards book, "Labor."

Of course we all know that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. So I invite you to see why myself,  John Shirley and the entire Chiat/Day team that worked on ABC, should feel so "flattered."



1997


2013

Two campaigns, one about a TV network and one about a TV streaming device. Separated only by time. And a clear lack of integrity. 

Am I crazy? Here's more.



1997


2013

And then there's this...



1997


2013

The last two are the most egregious of the bunch, as they even lift Pantone 187, otherwise known as Chiat/Day Yellow.

By the way, we also did a board much like the very top photo. But I went through my files and couldn't track it down. Ours said, "Eight hours a day is all we ask. ABC."

I'm not going to lie, when I first saw all this I was a little pissed off. 

Then I realized that while the topic is thievery, we are talking about advertising. And the world doesn't give a tinker's cuss about advertising. 

I also made the pleasing discovery that the gentlemen responsible for the Roku work came from Goodby Silverstein and Partners. For those of you not in the business, GS&P were the gold standard in the industry. 

For so many years, I was trying to do the kind of work that creatives at Goodby were doing. And now, some former Goodby creatives were doing the kind of work I had already done.

That's winning.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

School daze


School starts this week.

For my oldest daughter, it means her last year in high school. Which means the onset of Senior-itis. Not hers, mine.

How did I get to be old enough to have a child about to enter college?

Lately I've been seeing a spate of articles questioning the value of a 4-year college education. And with a quarter million dollar price tag for each child I'm wondering about the wisdom of it all myself.

How am I going to come up with that kind of money?

More importantly, wouldn't that money be better spent on vacations to the Caribbean?
A week at Dodger Training Camp?
A '67 Cherry Red Mustang Convertible?
Or a blonde goomah in a Hollywood pied-a-terre?

Of course, my wife will have none of that. Particularly the last option.

The fact is, she didn't speak to me for a week when I seriously suggested enrolling our daughters in the ROTC program.

"What, the discipline will be good for them."

Would I really want to deprive my children of a college education she asked. Prompting me to consider what it is exactly that I learned in college. The answer did not bolster her argument.

The first two years I was at Syracuse University I was an intended Math Major. By the time I got to Calculus 4, The Analysis of Transformational Objects Moving Through Three Dimensional Space, I was hopelessly lost. I was the only white male in a sausage-fest classroom of Indians and Pakistanis, who seemed to know more about the subject matter than the professor.

I couldn't draw a parabola.
Much less, one that rotated around the Z-axis.

Having failed the course, twice, I switched to the much less rigorous Broadcast Journalism program. The subject matter was far easier. Full semesters devoted to the study of MASH, the Mary Tyler Moore Show and All In the Family.

Had I known then what I know now, I would've dropped out of college and gone to Dodger Training Camp. Truth is, I had a better chance of becoming a major league catcher than I did of learning anything that would actually make me a better writer.

I'm staring at the inescapable. I need to bite the bullet and pony up the dough for my daughter(s) college education, both of them.

But if I had my druthers they'd be less concerned about getting a sheepskin and more focused on getting pregnant.

Because when the times comes, I intend to be the world's best grandfather.





Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Column B


Years ago, I had a job interview with Jim Walker, former President of Sedgwick Rd. To be honest I forgot the circumstances of the job. It was a Creative Director slot. It was in Seattle. Or it might have been in San Francisco. I only remember it was a well paying position.

I didn't get the gig.
But I got something much more valuable.

Jim was in LA and asked me to meet him at the Oceana Hotel in Santa Monica. I had never met him before. But knew his name. He had never met me. But also knew my name.

I always find this shocking. Yes, my name is in a few awards books, but I never considered myself a member of the advertising cognoscenti.

Jim and I hit it off right away and we started talking about the position. Twenty minutes into the interview he called for room service to send up a bucket of ice cold beers. We sat on the patio and looked out over the Pacific. I think by the second Corona he had already decided I wasn't the right guy.

I have a terrible poker face and probably scowled when he told me the job involved a lot of client contact.

Jim told me how his secret to finding happiness in the ad business. One day, while trying to sort out his own career path, he grabbed a pad and pen and drew two columns. In Column A, he wrote down all the things he didn't enjoy doing in his position as a Chief Creative Officer.

In Column B, he wrote down everything he did enjoy doing as a Chief Creative Officer.

This is hardly the stuff of epiphany.

But discovering relevance and acting on relevance are two different things.

The minute Jim had completed his two column exercise, he decided he was only going to accept jobs that involved more of Column B and less of Column A.

It's a deceivingly simple formula.
But it worked for Jim.
And it has worked for me.

For close to ten years now I have been living Column B. I come up with ideas. I write ideas. And occasionally I produce the ideas. And I still get excited by the whole process.

The other day I was driving my daughter to school. I told her I was all giddy because my partner and I had a potentially game-changing campaign for an assignment we're doing for a NY agency. I don't usually get exuberant about advertising ideas, but in this case I was.

Naturally she was curious and wanted to know details about the campaign. I had to bite my tongue.

I had to honor the NDA.

That's one from Column A.





Tuesday, August 20, 2013

NY State of Mind


When I was 17 years old, my father offered me a cushy job at his office. The company was Brownell Electro, a distributor of electrical wiring and motors, located on 15th Street and 10th Avenue. This was before the area got gentrified. And it had that old NY grittiness one would associate with an industrial neighborhood just north of the meat packing district.

After a year of flipping burgers and assembling tacos fresh from the 450 degree frying oil at Jack in the Box, any job that involved a desk, a chair and an adding machine seemed like a gift from heaven.

It wasn't.

Because no 17-year old, particularly one who had just discovered weed, wants to spend his summer getting up at 6 AM.

Or hopping on a Shortline bus for a miserable 1 hour commute with a bunch of cigarette-smoking, coffee-drinking suburban middle managers.

Or staring at mountains of paperwork for 8 hours a day while being barraged by a parade of angry Puerto Rican co-workers who could turn an argument about a three-ring binder into a five-alarm fire.

Add to that, the Port Authority building, where it was just as easy to get heroin as it was to get a ticket to Hoboken.

Entire neighborhoods that smelt like urine.

And the unbearable humidity that wreaked havoc on my sweaty body and often required on-the-fly-wardrobe changes.

I saw what New York City did to people and decided it wasn't going to do it to me.

So I moved to California.

It was a long time ago and I've never regretted the decision.

But things are changing.

In the past five years, I've witnessed a mass exodus going the other way. Friends and advertising colleagues giving up the palm trees, the beach cruisers and the In and Out burgers of Southern California for a slice of pizza and regular death-defying cab rides on the Belt Parkway.

These are not hardened, thick-skin expatriates like myself. These are mellow, sensitive, zen-loving Californians prone to sickening optimism and phrases like, "Duuuuude" or "that's super awesome."

And yet, there they are, not surviving the Big Apple, but thriving there. And now, thanks to the phenomena of Facebook, I get to witness it all: the Pomme Frite at Raouls,  the diaper-wearing banjo player on the #7 line, the peppery pastrami at Katz's Deli, the celebrity courtside sightings at Madison Square Garden.

Maybe it's this pervasive June Gloom that has all but robbed us of a summer, but it's making me jealous and homesick.

Of course, the Internet giveth and the Internet taketh away.

Any thoughts of pulling up stakes and heading back to Gotham are quickly squashed with one visit to Zillow.com. And the realization that a modest, two bedroom condo sprawling all of 800 square feet can be had for only $2.1 million.

Yeah, fuhgedaboutit.









Monday, August 19, 2013

Mmmm, that's some good cynicism.


We mark milestones here at Round Seventeen.

Of course, when I say we, I mean me.

Because this is a one man endeavor.

And that's just the way I like it.

I know ad agency office managers and new age architects are busy creating spaces where "ideas can collide with each other in the hallway and spark other ideas and curate a greater sense of teamwork and collaboration." 

I don't want to have anything to do with that bullshit.

The other point that needs clarifying is the word, milestones.

Let's not kid each other, this is an inconsequential little blog, ranked
4,873,921, the last time I bothered to look on the blog ranking scale. If I'm lucky I get seven, maybe eight thousand hits, in a month. The web traffic tends to go up the more I write about advertising. Particularly when I write posts that are mildly self-destructive and creep up on the precipice of career suicide.

You sadistic bastards should all feel very proud of yourselves.

The truth is, there really are no milestones here at Round Seventeen. I might feel different when we get to the 1,000th post but right now I'm feeling brutally honest. And that's one emotion I like to give myself up to.

As we've (I've) done with past milestones, it's time to break out a new tagline.

Unlike the past, I'm not turning this into any kind of interactive contest. No one seems to want to play. And frankly I'm disgusted by your apathy. And your previously-mentioned sadistic streak.

My first thought was:

Round Seventeen. At the corner of brutally honest and shamelessly narcissistic. 

But that had too many adverbs. And I remember reading a style book on writing that claimed adverbs are not the writer's friend.

I also liked:

Round Seventeen. For your daily affirmation of misanthropy.

Then I realized that in addition to being apathetic and sadistic, many of you are employed in advertising and are clueless as to the definition of misanthropy. Moreover, you wouldn't even bother to look it up.

Finally, I decided to go in a different direction and pay homage to my favorite hole in the wall Mexican restaurant, El Nepol.

Days after moving to California and living on the roof of a frat house, I was brought there by two UCLA students who were making a ton of money as tilers. I didn't take them up on their offer to join the tiling business, but I never forgot my first pregnant burrito.



Round Seventeen. Home of the Cynical Burrito.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Take two in the morning


On the topic of drugs, there's medicine and there's alternative medicine. Or as I like to call it, bullshit.

It should surprise no one that I'm not a fan of homeopathic, acupuncture, stone therapy or anything that involves the burning of incense or the chanting of incantations. I'll take a prescription, thank you very much. Preferably something derived from, or containing, opiates.

Here in Los Angeles, this is tantamount to heresy.

I can't tell you how many dinner parties or social engagements or even school functions that I've been to and forced to listen to such nonsense.

"The chiropractor said I was tied up in knots. He wants me to try some inversion boots."

"Turns out my chi was all out of balance. So I'm drinking Kale Mango Smoothies."

"My aromatherapist has me on Cinnamon/Sage for the next week. And then we're going to take it down a notch to French Vanilla."

If I get a scaly rash on my back I want a fast acting, industrial grade ointment that's going to make it go away.

What I don't want is some half-assed yoga instructor with an Associates Degree in Eastern Biology from Humboldt University telling me to stop eating Rib Eye steaks or centercut applewood bacon.

Of course I'm not alone in my close-mindedness.

Three years ago, the New England Journal of Medicine wrote:

"The most recent well powered clinical trials of acupuncture for chronic back pain showed that sham acupuncture was as effective as real acupuncture." Adding, "any benefits are mostly attributable to contextual and psychosocial factors, such as patients' beliefs and expectations."

In other words, it's all the placebo effect. That may suffice for gullible, affluent Angelenos living west of Lincoln Blvd. But it doesn't do much good for my 11-year old dog suffering from seasonal allergies. You see, she doesn't have the cognitive power to wish away the itching.

So after a trip to fully-certified medical veterinarian, I picked up some real medicine, Predizone and Cefpodoxime. And guess what? It worked.

I couldn't be happier.
Because there was no way I was going to strap my dog into inversion boots.




Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Home Sweet Office


I love my house.

I know if you were to take a bulldozer to it, it's nothing more than plywood, 2X4's, drywall, electric wiring and a tangled mess of copper plumbing, but it's mine.

Technically, half of it belongs to the bank, but if I didn't have that mortgage I wouldn't have a reason to get up in the morning and start pimping on behalf of America's finest corporations. And if I didn't do that, well, I wouldn't have had the money to buy the half of the house that belongs to me.

Let's just leave it at I love my house.

The thing I love most about my house is the thing I like the least about working in an office.

Maybe even your office.

You see at my house I don't work at a long communal mega table.
I have a desk. With seating for One. In a proper Herman Miller chair, not some knock-off ergonomick (spelling intentional) chair that will save a few dollars for the holding company shareholders.

At my house I'm not crammed into a corner near the media girls talking loudly about how they scammed the latest sales rep for a humongus lunch at Nobu.

I have an office.
I can close the door.
And if the neighbor's dog starts barking, I can slip on my Bose Noise canceling headphones.
Or crank up some Led Zeppellin, Santana or Pink Floyd.

That's right, I said Pink Floyd. I know that dates me but I don't want to listen to your Mumford and Sons, or Kings of Leon, or any of that bad electronica that somehow passes for music these days.

At my house, I have clocks in every room but they have no bearing on the assignment at hand.

If I have a great idea, or even just a good one, I'll write it down. It can happen at 7 in the morning. Or 11 o'clock at night. I might flesh it out right there on the spot. Or I might flesh it out later. Because if I also feel the need to go for a swim, I'll do that too.

At my house, I have the freedom to come and go as I please. But I also have the maturity to know that with great freedom comes great responsibility. Because if I don't deliver, the phone will stop ringing.

At my house, I am at my happiest.
At my house, I am my most productive.
At my house, I am at my most creative.

Maybe I work harder at home because eventually I'd like to stop writing the mortgage checks and own the half that still belongs to the bank. Or maybe it's because I like to eat my fruit, drink my coffee and do my business, in my bathroom.

If you have a project or an assignment for me, I'm happy to work on it. And even happier to take your money.

But if you want the most bang for your buck, you'll brief me on the phone and tell me to do the work at my house.


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Who is with me?


For those of you who don't speak or know Korean, the translation is:

Create the hot-wind of Masikryong Speed and rush forward in the drive for a grand revolution in development!

If I've said that once, I've said it a thousand times.

The poster, and the translation comes from Rodung Sinmum, the official news outlet of DPRK.

If we're friends on Facebook, you know that for the past 6 months or so, ever since Kim Jung Un started rattling his cheap bamboo saber at the United States and the world, I have been having fun at the Dear Eater's expense.

I've literally combed through hundreds of photos of Kim and re-captioned them with my own take on his special brand of narcissism. The entire collection can be seen here.

I'm content to keep lampooning the young tinpot dictator just as long his continues to parade around in his black pajamas with his toady, note-taking generals.


Mostly because I am unexplainably fascinated by the bad haircuts, the bad tailoring and the bad Orwellian propaganda. And because I have no meaningful hobbies.

But lately I've been hearing a lot of chatter about compiling all these photos and captions into a hard-cover coffee table book. I field these requests online and in private emails. I certainly appreciate the sentiment and the encouragement.

And I would love to comply. Having a book on the shelves, or even online, would go a long way to validate my seemingly indiscernible skills.

But none of that mitigates the realities at hand. I don't own the photos. I don't want to be sued by a rogue country. And I don't have a publisher who can sort out all the logistics so that I can pursue "my art."

If this social media thing were half as powerful as the digital ninjas claim it was, one of you out there would be helping to:

Create the hot-wind of publication and rush forward in the drive for a four-color coffee table book of political satirization!


Monday, August 12, 2013

Melancholy


Many of you will recognize this as Nakatami Tower, the location for the original Die Hard movie.

It was also the home of Abert, Newhoff & Burr, where I got my first real advertising job. (I'm going to ignore the three weeks I spent working at Bear Advertising, writing copy for guns, fishing reels and doe urine.)

I bring up AN&B, because last week my wife and I were escorting our daughter on a casual tour of colleges in central California, including UCSB and Cal State San Luis Obispo. While checking out these potential recipients of my life savings, I received an email with some very upsetting news.

One of the founders of the agency and the man who literally gave me a start in the business, Mel Newhoff, had passed away.

For those who don't know their Los Angeles advertising lore, Mel was part of the original team that made Chiat/Day, Chiat/Day. He was a writer's writer. At a time when craft and persuasion trumped technology and technique.

In piecing his father's memorial together, Mel's son had asked me if there were any quotes or words of wisdom that Mel had imparted. I wish there were. But Mel was a man of few words. He seemed to be saving the good ones for his clients and always let the work do his talking.

That's not to say I don't have any impactful memories. I do.

When the agency won the Daihatsu account I watched it grow. And when the agency lost the account, I watched it un-grow. It was a painful process because it inevitably meant saying goodbye to colleagues.

There were layoffs, followed by more layoffs. Until finally my partner and I were the only creatives left in the department. Mostly because we were the most junior and the only ones they could afford.

But the agency death spiral is an unforgiving beast, and eventually our time came.

Mel called me in the office and told me to shut the door. I knew what to expect. Or at least I thought I did. Mel apologized. He wished things had gone differently. And that he had made some better decisions. He told me not to worry and that he had already been making phone calls with other Creative Directors to get me my next job.

And then he reached in his top drawer to retrieve an envelope. And while he was handing me the severance check I could see he was visibly nervous. He was truly empathetic. I'm probably not doing it justice, but as menschy moments go, this was about the menschiest.

Later on in my career, I "got quit" several more times and come to put the whole thing in its proper perspective.

As the recent mega-mergers and the drive toward financial "efficiencies" have shown, the corporate world can be coldblooded, predatory and heartless.

Mel Newhoff proved it didn't have to be.



Thursday, August 8, 2013

How I Met Your Penis


I have seen Doogie's Howser.

Normally, I don't write two blog postings in one week about penises. Not because I'm worried about any perceived vagueness in my sexuality. At this point in my life, who cares?

But I do subscribe to that old dictum to 'write about what you know'. And other than my own, I have no knowledge, nor interest in, anybody else's penis.

Which brings me back to Neil Patrick Harris.

Years ago, when Culver City was swapping out old timey bookstores and cobbler shops for shiny, new restaurants and hipster coffee bars, someone had the brilliant idea to restore the decrepit Culver Theater.

With an infusion of money from the Mark Taper Forum and a generous donation from Kirk Douglas, the building got a fresh coat of paint and reams of brand new crushed red velvet. The rats and pigeons were evicted. Or moved to nearby Marina Del Rey. And for the first time in decades, the stage was set for live theater in Culver City.

Naturally this gave my wife and a friend from the neighborhood an excuse to purchase tickets to the new theater, which is in walking distance to our houses. And not just tickets mind you, season tickets. Which meant every week my buddy Clark and I were dragged off, with our wives, for a cultured evening of dinner and a show.

Nothing to complain about, right?

But in its infancy, the new Culver Theater was determined to make a name for itself. It did so by showcasing less-than-stellar writers bent on showcasing their alternative lifestyles. I certainly support equal rights for gay people.  And I'm no prude. I like watching two lipstick lesbians going at each other as much as the next fellow, but all this nudity and public display of light petting would have been more palatable had there been a point to it all.

There wasn't.

The week after week of wienie wagging culminated with the arrival of Culver Theater's biggest star to date, Neil Patrick Harris. But two minutes after coming on stage, Neil's pants, and his underpants, quickly came off. Moreover, it was during a soliloquy about his dying father. Huh?

We didn't renew our season tickets after that disappointing first year.

Last week, on a recent breakfast run to Sam & Woody's Cafe, we noticed that Val Kilmer is appearing in a show he wrote and directed about the life of Mark Twain.

So, after an 8 year absence we are returning to the Culver Theater. But if Val unzips his pants and takes out his Huckleberry Finn, I'm out of there.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Mad Skillz


People are still buzzing about the huge $35 billion merger between Omnicom and Publicis. (But don't ask for a raise because the folks in HR will tell you, "we don't have any money.")

The story was covered by CNN.
All the trades.
And naturally, all the bloggers.

But the best, and most telling coverage, came from The Onion, who claimed, "Merger Of Advertising Giants Brings Together Largest Collection Of People With No Discernible Skills." Further pointing out that the consolidation will create an intimidating workforce of 135,000 utterly talentless men and women who are not marketable in any industry other than their own and whose jobs add zero value to society at large.

Hey, I resemble that remark.

And so I should, as I have spent a considerable number of years working at both organizations.

But don't tell that to my 500+ connections on Linkedin.com, who would stake their reputations and testify that my skills are anything but indiscernible.


If you believe these linkedin endorsements, and clearly I don't, I should have a PHd. and a Black Belt in all manner of persuasiveness.

Seriously, look at that. I'm impressed with myself. And no one knows my limitations better than I do.

If I had expertise in all these areas I would expect OmniPube to be rolling a truck up on my driveway with about $1 billion in cash. Which reminds me, I better move the trash cans.

Recently Chris M. endorsed me for Content Strategy. I find this troubling on several fronts. First of all, I have no idea what Content Strategy is. Moreover, I've never worked with Chris M. and don't know who he, or she, is.

As I scan my astounding Curriculum Vitae, I can't help but notice a glaring omission. Recently, we had to come up with a last minute mobile ad for a deck we were preparing. I instructed the art director to simply resize a banner ad to fit on the iPhone screen.

I would hope that art director, who shall remain nameless, will now take the trouble, log onto linkedin.com and endorse me in the area of Mobile Ads. You know, in recognition of my demonstrated proficiency and Mobile Advertising acumen.











Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Lop it off


The man in green is a convicted thief. He is about to have his finger amputated by several members of the Iranian Judicial System using the patented Digitron 9000™.

OK, that's not really the name of the machine, but the rest of the story is true and you can read about it and see more pictures here.

By the way, that seems like a lot of modern machinery to simply snip off a finger. I'm sure some clever mechanical designers could reduce the number of moving parts and get it down to the small cutting apparatus on the left (red handle).

But this is not the point of today's blog.

As a faithful reader in Orange County pointed out several months ago, I do plenty of stories regarding some of the Neanderthal practices from the Middle East. And, he suggests, "never enough coverage about some of the crazy Jewish shit that goes on. "

Say hello to Metzizah Bepeh.

As I mentioned in one of last week's blogs, I'm very squeamish, so this is a delicate matter. But Jewish boys are, by tradition, circumcised eight days after birth. I was lucky enough to father two daughters and spared the obligation to make that phone call.

"Yeah hi, I was wondering if you could come to my house next week and shear off a piece of my son's penis?"

Among the Reform Jews, this ceremony is nothing more than an excuse to have friends over, drink mojitos, eat spring rolls and marvel at the newborn. Complemented by a little cavemen barbarism, some bloody towels and many, many jokes about "missing the tipoff" and "cocktail wienies."

For the Orthodox, the ritual is much more somber.

And for the Ultra-Orthodox, the cutting or removal of the foreskin is followed by Metzizah Bepeh, whereby the Chief Rabbi will literally place his mouth over the baby's penis and suck out the blood to prevent infection.



Any editorialization here would be redundant, suffice to say, eeeeeewwwwwwww!

I find this Abrahamic obsession with cutting off bits of the human body quite repulsive.

But maybe this common ground is something Muslims and Jews could work on. Maybe, and I'm just spitballing here, they could get together with some folks from Apple and come up with a device that would cut off fingers as well as the unwanted part of the newborn's penis.

It could be just the thing that brings peace to the Middle East.
And rejuvenate Apple's sagging stock price.

I've already come up with the perfect name.
Introducing the revolutionary new iSnip.

Monday, August 5, 2013

iFarce Ads


Last week I was working on a pitch.

As with all pitches, indeed all presentations these days, there was the dreaded Deliverables List. You know, the menu of items that must be presented so that all parties in the room, including the cellar dwellers of the corporate hierarchy, feel they are important and a key member of the AOR selection team.

You see, the critical branding and re-positioning of a client can be just right, but if, god forbid, you walk into that room without a mobile ad to see how it works on a smartphone screen, well that's just so 2003.

Every once in a while I need to refresh myself on the constantly changing nomenclature for ads these days.

Display Ads.
Native ads.
Rollover ads.
Page takeovers, rich media 236 X 74 boxed skyscraper ads.
Damn you media people.
Isn't it enough that you get all those free coffee mugs, T-shirts and tickets to baseball games, why do you have to make my life a living three-page-long-deliverables-list hell?

Anyway, when my art director partner came to me at the last minute panicked because we didn't have a mobile ad to put on page 194 of the deck, naturally I had to ask for clarification.

And there it is in the picture above.
A two and 1/2 inch wide banner standing all of 3/8 of an inch high.

You have got to be shitting me!

I don't like to come off as some naive dinosaur but I didn't even know they were putting ads, or that they even had a special name, on the webpages I occasionally browse on my iPhone. My partner pointed out that they had been doing them for years.

Which means I have unwittingly ignored them for years.

Why would I be looking at an ad on my phone when my wife just texted me that the toilet in the guest bathroom is painting the floor with last night's dinner?

I read recently that less than 1 in 1,000,000,000*  people actually click through full sized banners placed on a web site. Leading me to believe that are actually more people "ideating", creating, designing and posting mobile ads, than there are people actually clicking on mobile ads.

Oh, the humanity.


* Data gleaned from The Siegel Institute of Fictional Statistics and Common Sense





Thursday, August 1, 2013

All will be revealed


Every month or so, Ad Age magazine will send its intrepid reporters to track down the luminaries of the ad world. The Rock Stars. The ones who give us those annoying 5 second clips before the Youtube videos we really want to see.

And these Gods of the Ad World are interviewed in a continuing series entitled: Six Things You Didn't Know About (insert gushworthy Creative Director name here).

As you might have guessed, I abhor this faux-celebrity treatment. Not because no one ever favored me with that type of adulation...uh, strike that. In all honesty, that's probably the only reason why I've taken to such mockery.

Seeing as my career has been reduced to the occasional Anthem/Manifesto spot or the cheaply produced throwaway banner ads, it's a safe bet that Ad Age is not knocking down my door for the next installment.

But, I thought, "why should that stop you, the loyal 200-300 readers who visit this blog everyday, from suffering the insufferable?"

So without further ado:

1. I'm incredibly squeamish. I'm not a fan of needles. Don't like the sight of blood. And tend to shy away from movies with excessive violence. This makes me hesitant to see the work of Quinton Tarantino, though I do enjoy his deconstructive efforts. I've seen Inglorious Bastards three times and despite its natural appeal, have never watched the scene of the Jewish Bear take a baseball bat to the head of the Nazi soldier.

2. I'm a manscaper. Because I swim regularly and because I know women have an aversion to unsightly hair, other than in the chest and leg area, I force my wife to grab the Norelco and 'mow the backyard' as it were. This is illogical on many counts. Namely, that I'm married. Moreover, the only women by the pool are altacacas who are too busy doing their aqua-cises.

3. I'm a closet sentimentalist. Yesterday my oldest daughter came in my office and spotted my high school yearbook on the bookshelf. I keep it handy to identify names and faces of people I have long since forgotten. As she was leafing through the ancient headshots of people, it struck how many classmates had actually passed away. Way too soon. Young people, struck down in their 20's, 30's and 40's. I had to put the book back on the shelf as I was on the verge of tears.

4. I'm a very good stalker. Years ago, I had some problems with a neighbor that lived in the house behind me. We had an anonymous confrontation regarding his use of a circular saw at 2 in the morning. It threatened to escalate. So I poked and prodded and found out everything I could about this 48-year old unemployed bi-polar loser who lives with his mother and has had drug issues as well as previous run-ins with the police. Know thy enemy, I say.

5. I hate broccoli, cauliflower and lima beans. Instant gag reflex.

6. I'm disappointed with people. Mind you, I understand that I suffer from unwarranted self-rightousness and that my standards are high and somewhat unreasonable. But my disappointment is not easing with the passing of time. It is getting worse. From parents who let their children play in the lap lanes at the pool to multi-tasking freeway drivers who believe they can navigate the 405 and the QRTY keyboard on their smartphone at the same time. And that's just the small stuff. I'm disappointed with the 1000 or so "friends" I have on Facebook and linked in.com who have still not hooked me up with a large media company that would distribute roundseventeen on a wider basis.

In other words I'm disappointed with you.