Thursday, February 26, 2015

The 6 Year Itch


If you look closely at the swarthy fellow in the picture above, you'll notice something unusual. No, not the hairy forearms, but close.

The man has 6 fingers on each hand.

He was selected for today's post because as of Saturday, my birthday, this blog will have been around for 6 long years.

RoundSeventeen. Biting the hand that feeds it since 2009.

As I approach my 44th birthday I find it hard to believe I'm still writing this thing. I find it even harder to believe anyone is still reading this thing.

Last week I was chatting with my good friend Mike Folino. And by chatting I mean exchanging emails, because I rarely talk to anyone on the phone these days. It's all part of my slipping into hermitude campaign.

RoundSeventeen. Angrily creeping towards obscurity since 2009.

Mike insists, with my prolific posting here and my semi-regular bashing of Kim Jung Un, I am quickly approaching critical mass. He predicts, foolishly so, that soon I will be flooded with waves of new readership. Adding that some publication house will surely hear your name and make big things happen.

RoundSeventeen. Circling the porcelain arena since 2009.

Of course Mike is also a freelance copywriter.

So while he is no doubt a friend, he is also the competition. It goes to reason therefore, that if I'm spending an inordinate time blogging and posting my geo-political nonsense, I'm spending that much less time focused on copywriting.

Meaning Mike could swoop in and grab all those lucrative assignments: manifestos for mattress companies, taglines for accounting software developers and banner ads for ColostCo, America's premier maker of colostomy bags.

RoundSeventeen. Celebrating 6 glorious years of underachievement.

In any case, this is a good opportunity to thank you all for showing up.

And for paying your monthly dues in order to access my daily diatribes…wait a minute. No one has been monthly dues. If I'm not mistaken, I believe the appearance of passive non-existent revenue is the first sign of early senility.

I'm going to sock this picture away, because if I'm still writing R17 six years from now, I can use it again.

RoundSeventeen. Recycling jokes and beating a dead horse since 2009.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Anne Beatts Off



Like many of you, I watched the mammoth 3 &1/2 hour long Saturday Night Live 40 Year Anniversary Show.

Unlike many of you, and in a tip to today's amazing technology, I did not watch the live show live. And instead watched the semi-live, semi-taped show at my convenience off the DVR.

While I greatly enjoyed the show, I'd be lying if I told you I didn't feel the pain of melancholy and nostalgia.

More so than most I suspect.

Because Saturday Night Live was more than just a weekend diversion, a reason to sit around with college buddies, get stoned and laugh like a cranked up hyena.

For me, it was a dream.

I didn't know how it would happen or when it would happen, but I was certain I was going to get a job as a writer at 30 Rockefeller Center. Talk about naive, clueless and entitled.

One cold snowy night in Syracuse, in the foggy haze brought on by a 6 pack of Genny Cream Ale and some brownies baked with Adirondack Green (hemp that would have been more useful for making rope), I decided to begin my campaign. I wrote a letter to one of the original writers on staff -- Anne Beatts.

Why Anne Beats? Because you can't make lazy masturbation puns with names like O'Donohue and Zweibel.

I don't have a copy of the initial letter, but it's safe to say it was sophomoric, cheap and riddled with grammatical and spelling errors. Not unlike the previous 1200 posts on this blog.

You can imagine my shock and my joy, when I received a personally written letter in return. Signed and sealed on official Saturday Night Live stationary. Anne Beatts was impressed with my ability to work her odd name into so many sentences that all ended with...Anne Beatts off.

I pictured her and the rest of the SNL writing crew gathered on the couch at Studio 8H, drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes and reading my missive aloud. I imagined loud guffaws. Spit takes. And Lorne Michaels getting on the horn with the folks in HR…

"Draft up an offer letter. I'm sure we can get this Siegel character to drop out of college and start working here immediately."

Of course that's not how the real world works at all.

Ms. Beatts had 10+ years on me at the time, on the cusp of becoming the prototypical Cougar. She was probably thinking, maybe I can get this young college kid to come to my Chelsea town home, slip him a stiff drink and throw me a good one.

Or maybe not.

The correspondence went back and forth a few times. But stopped when it became clear I had nothing else to offer but lame chicken-choking euphemisms.

The truth is, that while I wanted so badly to be a writer for SNL, I wasn't ready. And passion is a poor substitute for a portfolio.

Five years later, I still wasn't ready.
Ten years, nope.
Even twenty years later, still not ready.

The irony is, only now do I feel I could walk into those hallowed hallways and knock out a commercial parody. Or a skit. Or even a newscast that could compete with what goes on the air.

Maybe I should fish my old IBM Selectric II typewriter out of the garage and dash something off to SNL.

If I could only find a clever way to work in Lorne Michael's name with the phrase -- making stomach pancakes.








Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Is it Kanye or Sir Blogs-A-Lot?


Had I the wherewithal, and the mysterious ability to code and script Java, and differentiate between a domain, a server and a flick flack confabulator, I would have built a website based on the simple premise:

Is this lyric from Kanye West or was it written by Rich Siegel?

You've seen these type of novelty websites before. And they make for fun diversion that gets ink on Buzzfeed, Mashable and other digital magazines that add nothing to our lives. Much like this blog.

But the truth is, right now I have too many side hustles going on as it is.

In addition to R17, I have a tumblr that regularly pokes fun at Kim Jung Un. I've personally taken it upon myself to wage a vigorous battle against religion and the forces, often violent, of fairy tale worship. I'm still trying to craft a collection of short stories.

And of course, I've been working' like a merkin' to put two girls through college. So, I've taken the simpler, less laborious approach of making this game a posting.

Without further ado, let's begin.

A.

She said gimme that jimmy,
don't put no hat on,
make it snappy,
poody tat want to get her freak on.

The question is, was this rap "lyric" "written" by the man who regularly makes an ass of himself on the red carpet, on stage, or just anywhere he opens his mouth. Or was it written by the fat, bald Jew who makes an ass of himself on a daily basis?

Next up.

B.

You ain't my boss,
You ain't my master,
Come at me I reach for my blaster.
You want it clean there's the mop
You want it fixed don't look at me bitch
I'm outtahere
I'm outtahere
I'm outtahere
You don't matter here.

Oooh, are you feeling the workplace anger there? Did it come the apparently-blind, aspiring fashion designer or the husky 44 year old copywriter with anger management issues?

Getting the hang of this? Here's another.

C.

Are you feelin' me?
Or you dealing' me?
It don't figure,
my n*gga,
You feelin' my trigga?
Done my time at Rikers,
with bars as thick as ficas,
Not going back, 
no way no how.
I like my beef from a Grade A Kobe cow.

That one was tricky. Does it come from the man who famously cut off Taylor Swift? Or is the handiwork of the henpecked husband who brings home the wrong trash bags?

D.

Ay gurl.
Ay gurl.
Wassup gurl?
Whatcha doing Ye?

Think you got it?
Good.

Now without using The Goggle, which of the two of the aforementioned lyrical snippets were written by the man who said, "I am a proud non-reader of books."

And which lyrics were written by Kanye West.


Leave your answers in the comment section. Winners will receive an autographed copy of my upcoming book.













Monday, February 23, 2015

To Kill a Mockingbird


Recently, the literary world was set all a twitter.

It was announced that author Harper Lee was about to publish another book. I'm ashamed to admit it, but I had never taken the time to read her classic, To Kill A Mockingbird.

This should come as no surprise to readers of this blog, who know that I may be the most poorly-read writer on the planet. I'm doing my best to correct this. And, upon the advice of my friend George, have recently discovered the talents of Joseph Mitchell.

I'm also making my way through some David Sedaris.

But there are so many good writers, real writers, that it's hard to know where to start. Plus, there's this nagging, time-eating business of making a living and penning all sorts of sordid corporate poetry (anthems and manifestos) to keep food on my table.

In any case I made it a point to pick up Harper Lee's seminal work and was hugely disappointed.

Allow me to elaborate.

Two weeks ago, I was awakened by the sound of a bird (I had not determined its breed yet) who set up shop in the Eucalyptus tree right outside my bedroom window. He started singing at 3:27 AM.

And he NEVER stopped.
Not once.

I came out of the shower, he was still going at it.
I poured a cup of coffee, he was still singing.
I came home from work that night, and this nuclear-powered Energizer bunny of a bird was still chirping away.

The next night, I did not fare any better. At 1:30 AM I grabbed the long aluminum pole thingamajig that I use to open the skylight in my house, ran out side and started slapping the tree. He flew away and came back five minutes later.

Five and half minutes later he was singing.

I ran outside again, clad only in my tight whities -- a la Walter White (pictured above) -- and grabbed a bag of my Kingsford Match Light Instant Charcoal Briquets from my garage. There I stood, illuminated only by the Malibu lights in my garden, throwing these coal nuggets at the highest branches of the tree. Hoping not only to scare the bugger away, but also for a direct shot to the noggin.

I'm an animal lover but this bastard has kept me awake for a fortnight.

Naturally, I turned to the Internet to investigate further. Turns out, I have a bonafide mockingbird in my tree.





I discovered that it is a male mockingbird, in search of a mate.

And like its human brethren, will go to great lengths to "satisfy the urge." Research indicates the mockingbird will continue for weeks, months if necessary, to sing and sing and sing and sing. Until he gets his nut. Or until I call a Realtor.

Whichever comes first.

And that's what drove me to the bookstore. You can imagine my surprise to find that Harper Lee's, "To Kill a Mockingbird" was a tale of racial persecution in the South and not an instruction manual for the disposal of aviary pests.

This is why I don't read more often. Authors are too fond of their own cleverness. And subtext. And symbolism. And obfuscation.

I don't like obfuscation.
Particularly when I'm running on such little shut-eye.









Thursday, February 19, 2015

People I call colleagues


I don't know how it worked out this way, it might have something to do with the long hours I've been putting in lately, but today's post, like this week's previous three, is also about Advertising.

In other words, I lost an opportunity to do an entire Theme Week, which always bumps up my pitiful web traffic ratings.

Enough of my so-called problems.

Our business is chock full of Bullshit.
Mountains of it.
If you clumped it all together it would be bigger than Pluto and earn the designation of a true planet.

As you are reading this, ambitious Assistant Account Executives are building gator boards about the automotive buying habits of 25-35 year old Active Persuasive Innovators earning $65,000-$83,000 and attending religious institutions 5-6 times a year.

150-page decks are being assembled detailing the contrasting social media habits of millennial fisherman in Portland, Maine and Portland, Oregon.

And Cambridge-schooled ex-pat planners are in heated battles with reluctant clients who just don't get the color orange. And its relevance in today's saturated media marketplace.

Oh, you think I'm guilty of hyperbole?

Not long ago, the good folks at PepsiCo spent a million dollars, that's right, a million dollars to have their logo redesigned by the professionals at the Arnell Group, a firm of craftsmen and craftswomen with the highest standards of integrity.

SFX: COUGH

You may be saying to yourself, that's a lot of money to change one red, white and blue beachball into another red, white and blue beachball. But chances are you haven't read the research, you haven't seen the findings, and you haven't seen all the complex emotions, decisions and quantum physics that go into choosing a can of brown, fizzy water.

Exhibit A:



Poor Archimedes, if only he had lived long enough to see how his rigorous work and tireless hours sketching vectors and constructing congruent angles had been successfully applied to Aisle 5 at the ShopRite Supermarket.

I'm sure this would have blown wind up his toga.


Symmetrical Energy Fields? Are you fucking kidding me? I thought those were only found in the nooks and craggy caverns outside Sedona, Arizona, the home of sage-burning, hippy dippy crystal worshippers.

You can view the entire and exhaustive document here. And I recommend you do.

It's easy to make the mistake of thinking you know what you need to know about the business of advertising. Until you spend some time with something this amazing in its scope and detail. It is only then that you discover for every answer there are a million more questions.

Like,  "I'm in the same business as these flim-flammers? What the hell have I done with my life?"

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Glory Days



Unable to resist the Brian Williams Meme-wagon, last week I posted this on my FaceBook page.

As you can see it appears Brian Williams has claimed credit for writing and designing an old billboard John Shirley and I did way back when.

As I was trying to find a picture that could be appropriately doctored, I ran across a 1998 article in Ad Age magazine: Ten Reasons Why TBWA/Chiat/Day is Creativity's Agency of the Year.

I'm a self-admitted narcissist. I'm usually pretty good at sniffing out digital ink, particularly when it mentions my name. As a freelancer fighting the debilitating effects of age and the uncontrollable growth of ear hair, I have to be.

But, I had never seen this article before.

Which is probably a good thing, because now I need a 5 gallon tub of lube just to get my head through the front door of my house.

If you have a copy of Bruce Springsteen's Born in the USA album, now would be a good time to cue up "Glory Days."

You may not be able to access the article because of Ad Age's crazy subscription policy, they literally want people to pay for the privilege of reading. What kind of nonsense is that? Writers don't need money.

So I've taken the liberty of excerpting the best parts for you.


I get called a lot of names.

Asshole.
Douchebag.
Self Righteous Prick.

And that's just from my immediate family. But I don't think there's any higher honor than being dubbed a "solid veteran." Solid is a great compliment. It indicates, for better or for worse, that I am dependable, stalwart and worthy of trust. That's gold for a freelancer. Hell, I might even add that to my linkedin page.

Ad Age also said this:


I'm not sure we changed the network approach to advertising. Or anything else for that matter.

They still churn out the same mindless bullshit. And they're still stuck in their old ways. But considering all the instances in this business where I was unfairly denied credit, I'll take it where I can get it.

Thank you very much.

Of course all good things come to an end. And we, Chiat, did not follow up the glory of 1997 and 1998 with a repeat performance in 1999. The beginnings of a dynasty ended.

What happened, you might ask?

I don't know. Perhaps I'll crack open up a new bottle of Beefeaters Gin, some lemon juice, some simple syrup and a tall glass of ice and think about it.



Tuesday, February 17, 2015

My Two Cents on Fiddy


Last week, I was working on a television spot for an unnamed client and an unnamed agency. I can't say anything more about it because of NDA's and such. And frankly, it's not important.

The spot was retail in nature.

I'm at a point in my career when I'm asked to do a great deal of retail. That might have bothered me in the past, it doesn't bother me now.

I'm not above writing anything. Mostly because I'm writing endless checks to the University of Washington. And next year, probably the University of Colorado as well.

"Oh and Daddy I need $120 to buy a new digital spectrographic confibulator for Chem class."

Since it was a retail spot, I thought why not cart out Fiddy Cent as a spokesperson. Hell, his name practically screams RETAIL.

Not knowing much about the man from South Jamaica, Queens, a short bike ride away from Flushing, where I went to elementary school, I decided to check out Fiddy online.

Holy Shit, what a potty mouth!

I can't understand a word he says when he "sings" but his lyrics leave little to the imagination.

My lust on level 10
I'm tryin' to get in
I'll have you cumin down your candy walls
Get it wetter than Niagra Falls

That's from one of his love songs. Here's another:

I got half a mil deal with no diploma
Ice so blind it give your ass glaucoma

The imagery is a bit stretched, but the man can rhyme. And finally, there's this one:

She in the Gucci tights and Findi high heels
Baby wipes and cans of Infamil
Motor bike and grams of fish scale
It's a 9 to 5 niggas with no frills

No idea what that means, but it comes from a song titled "I Smell Pussy".

What's amazing is that I found all these snippets within seconds. I didn't have to cherry pick or do any digging. I simply went to a catalogue of his songs and found these so-called lyrics. Ok, the last piece I picked specifically because the title caught my eye. And my nose.

But the point stands.

His music is out there. And he is just one of what seems to be a million other rappers trying establish their street cred. So the airwaves are teeming with this bile about n*ggas, triggas, glocks and cocks.

Which makes it a little difficult for me to sit with a straight face and listen to Mr. or Ms. Client tell me they're not fond of a headline that starts with the word "don't."

"Maybe it's me, but it seems a little negative. We don't want to be negative."

By the way, the idea never made it past the junior, junior planner.





Monday, February 16, 2015

Company UnKool Aid



Years ago, I remember being told to tidy up my work area because a potential new client was coming in for a "chemistry check."

I don't know who HR is trying to fool, but a "chemistry check" is nothing more than a stall technique. It gives the agency financial guys time to run down the client's creditors and make sure that the
all-important revenue stream keeps on streaming.

In other words, if the check clears we have chemistry.

It also gives the bulbous, red-nosed CEO an opportunity to use the expensive executive conference room, break out the agency's limited set of real silverware and meet and greet the potential new client and their marketing staff.

It is at this point the said CEO can, during a laborious Powerpoint presentation, look across the room at the leggy assistant CMO and think to himself, "Yeah, I can bone her."

That comes under the heading of a "anatomy check."

Turns out we won the pitch and the first order of the day, sadly, was a team building exercise.

We gathered at the client's Thousand Oaks headquarters where the CMO, sporting a toupee that looked like it doubled as a carpet swatch, passed out little scraps of paper. We were then instructed to write down our favorite breakfast cereal, our favorite band and our favorite author.

To be honest, I don't remember what happened next, because 'team-building' or corporate 'ice-breaking' or 'positive self-esteem nurturing' or whatever the fuck you want to call it, is not my favorite activity.

Frankly, I'd rather have a prostate exam by a surly urologist with calloused hands and unclipped fingernails.

All of which should tell you more than enough about me, in case the 1200+ entries on this blog didn't suffice, and why I was so excited to stumble across these highly-cynical but deadly-accurate Demotivational Posters.



I like this one. This one is applicable after an hourlong briefing for an automotive sales event, an exercise in redundancy if there ever was one. The dealers want to move to some sheet metal. End of story. No more questions.


A lot of what passes for insight inside an ad agency isn't. Moms are busy. Dads are stressed. Teenagers watch TV on the Internet. Got it. Let's move on.


Not fond of Saccharin Susies. Probably not a surprise. It's easy for you to smile and be cheery and exude happiness like the day you were accepted into the Alpha Phi Sorority, you didn't spend the last 72 hours trying to crack a brand repositioning. And you don't have to spend the next 72 hours "exploring a different direction."

But hey Polly Pollyanna, thanks for bringing in the donuts. They're super delish.

There are 100 more of these posters online. I'm not going to dissect and comment on each and every one of them. Not because I'm lazy. I have a pot of coffee and a whole day off (my first in more than a month) to rifle through this corporate jackoffery.

But the other day, someone in a private email accused me of being a curmudgeon. And I don't want to lend any credence to that.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Criss Cross

My East Coast Doppelgänger and fellow ad blogger, George Tannenbaum and I, decided we'd do something different today. We wrote guest columns for each other's blogs. You can find mine at adaged.com. And you can enjoy George's, who doesn't give himself nearly enough credit for being funny, right here. Oh and don't be ashamed if you have to look up some words in the dictionary, George is much more erudite than me.





Not long ago, Rich, Mr. Round Seventeen himself, and I decided we’d trade places for a day. I’d write a post for his blog—though I’m not nearly as funny as he, and he’d write a post for mine.

I should say at the outset that my friendship with Rich is an odd one. We’ve never met, never spoken. We’ve tried to get together whenever I am shooting in LA, but we’ve never made it work. Usually something to do with uxorial demands or the fact that I tend to fall asleep by 9:30 PM.

Despite that distance, Rich and I are friends. We’re both “men of a certain age,” members of the Tribe, and copywriters. We’ve both enjoyed fair-to-middling success in our careers. First on staff at notable agencies, and now on the occasionally ball-crushing, if lucrative, freelance circuit.

There are many areas in which I cannot compete with Rich. Like I said, I’m not as funny as he. And while I am a bulldog in many ways, he’ll hold onto a bone and shake it to death even more vigorously than I will.

I’d have given up on the exercise machine that he bought that can’t be put together. Chalked the money up as lost. Dealt with my wife’s imprecations.

I’d never have gotten started with Mantu, on Tuesday or any other day. I don’t have the time or the patience.

The one thing I do do—yes, Rich, I know I said do do—is go toe to toe with Time-Warner cable, the worst cable provider except for the one you have.

My internet, which is supposed to be high-speed but is low speed in the way that a Starbuck’s small coffee is a tall, goes out on average six times a year. Always without notice, always without a note or a phone call about when they expect it to be back.

Whenever it happens to me, I summon up whatever reserves I have and I call Time-Warner.

When I finally get a human, I unload a tale.

I was in the Mekong Delta. From nowhere came rocket fire and a battalion of Viet Cong. A buddy, just 20 feet from me had his legs blown off. I scurried ahead and dragged him to safety.

Then I got hit. Small arms. Then a mortar. Then more small arms. Then another mortar. It was like target practice for them.

I finally woke up in a field hospital. Was transferred when I had stabilized to Tokyo. I would live…but without my arms and legs.

Do you know what life is like with no arms, no legs and no internet? I ask. The internet is my connection to the world. It’s how I communicate, socialize, how I order food and entertain myself.

I need my internet restored.

At this point, the Time-Warner man is sobbing.

“When can you come to my apartment?” I plead.

“We can have someone out to your place Thursday.”

“Thursday? That’s four days from now. You can’t have someone sooner—I HAVE NO ARMS AND LEGS!”

Now, if I were Rich, I would start a campaign about this. I’d figure a way to get it into a book, or a screenplay, or something.

But I’m from New York.

My jib isn’t cut that way.

I prefer throwing bricks through plate glass. And slashing the tires of every Time-Warner truck I see.

Bastards.



Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Book Review


This is not a good book.

It simply is not.

Mind you, I haven't read the Quran in its entirety, but I haven't read Mein Kampf and I know that's not a good book either.

Over the course of the past three weeks, I've seen this book used to justify the practice of grown men marrying 9 year olds girls.

I've seen this book used to justify throwing gay men off the roof of a building.

I've seen this book used to justify the beheading of two Japanese journalists.

I've seen this book used to justify the annihilation of an entire village of Nigerians.

And just recently, I've seen passages cited in this book used to justify the burning of a live human being, who for some unknown reason, was also a faithful follower of the same book.



Funny, I've heard of old Jews citing verse from the Talmud to send cold soup back to the kitchen but never anything about setting blasphemers on FIRE.

For some unexplainable reasons, our President, Howard Dean, John Kerry, Kareem Abdul Jabbar and other media pundits are working hard to have us believe that these barbarous acts have nothing to do with what's in this book.

That the individuals responsible for the murder and the mayhem are acting outside the confines of this book and have errantly misread its Scripture.

I don't buy that for a second.
But for the sake of argument, let's say I did.

Even if you were to separate the aforementioned extremism from Islam -- which sadly cannot be done -- the problems do not go away.

Just like the Old Testament (also not a good book) and the New Testament (not a fan of this one either), the Quran has a decidedly Neandarthal opinion of gay people. In fact, it's outright hostile.

The Quran also has some medieval ideas about women.

The Quran speaks quite unkindly about non-believers.

Has rotten notions about dhimmitude.

Forbids bacon -- for God knows what reason.

And the Holy Quran, the perfect word of Allah, singles out my people as descendants of Pigs and Apes. Moreover, the Hadith calls for the murder of my fellow Pigs and Apes.

"The stones and trees will O Muslims, O Abdullah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him"
--Sahih Muslim 41:6985

So you see, even if you were to do away with the stonings, the raping, the honor killings, the beheadings and the immolations, you're still left with pretty abhorrent beliefs.

In my book, and apparently in this one, even Moderate Islam is Radical Islam.










Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Ethnic Friending


My wife and I don't fight a lot.

OK, last week we had a doozy and there was cursing, there was yelling and there was the dumping of the bowl of fresh pasta into the garbage disposal, but generally we don't fight that often.

At least not as often as my parents did. Nor, I'm told as often as her parents did.

Of course, when my youngest daughter leaves for college in September, and it's just the two of us, the battling may involve small arms and tactical nukes.

"How many times have I told you I like the plastic garbage bags with the red handles? The red handles, not the blue ones."

When we do fight, it's usually over stupid stuff.
Picking a restaurant is our personal Maginot Line.

You see we've eaten everywhere in Los Angeles. We know all the good places on the Westside. And can recite Yelp reviews word for word. So now, in what could be viewed as politically incorrect browsing, we turn to a new source of culinary expertise: Facebook.

Allow me to explain.

Let's say by some freakish accident my wife and I will agree that we want ramen. Well who knows ramen better than people in the Asian community.

And so I will start poking around the pages of friends who fit the profile. I have close to 1500 friends on Facebook, which I find odd because almost on a daily basis I give people reasons not to like me. And I know my wife will agree me on that.

Turns out I have a significant number of Asian Facebook buddies.

So the search never lasts long. Within seconds I will typically find a photo of a ramen bowl, accompanied by a picture of one or more people of Korean or Asian descent enjoying the ramen and if I'm lucky, a personal recommendation regarding the ramen.

"Get the triple spicy Tonkotsu with extra boiled eggs. And don't leave without trying the chicken katsu, it's just like the katsu my grandmother used to make."

That's the krakken.

By the way, this little trick works for all ethnicities. My Hispanic friends know the locations of all the good divey Mexican restaurants. I might even stumble upon a place that serves up good grub from El Salvador.

I can always count on my fellow Members of the Tribe to point me in the direction of the best pastrami and knishes.

And if I get hankering for Chicken Tikka Masala or some Himalayan Yak Stew, I simply comb through my list in search of a surname that would feel at home in the Mumbai White Pages.

Maybe you do the same thing.
Or maybe this is not something people speak of publicly.
But I did and it's done.

That reminds me, I love good soul food and BBQ,  I need to get some more black friends.


Monday, February 9, 2015

Don't shoot


Some of you will recognize this photo.

It was used in on the cover of National Lampoon with the headline, "If you don't buy this magazine we'll shoot this dog."

Intentionally provocative then, industry appropriate now.

By that I mean, it is Saturday morning as I write this blog. This is the fourth weekend in a row I am working. My current assignment requires me to be in the office so it's even more onerous. I haven't had a day off in a month.

Normally that would not bother me in the least. As a freelancer, I enjoy getting booked, solving an agency's problems, outsmarting today's crop of entitled kids and waiting by the mailbox for my fat paycheck.

But, for the last 30 or so odd days, I have been working with a gun to my head.

24 hour turnarounds.
Soft check ins.
Hard check ins.
Briefings.
Rebriefings.
Feedback.
More feedback.
And another check in, you know, just to take your temperature.

It would be one thing if this were the standard practice at one ad agency, but this is happening at every ad agency. All of them. This is what our industry has come to. And if the work from this year's Super Bowl was any indication, it's not a good thing.

I feel like my legs have been chopped off beneath me.
I want to be hugged by my daddy.
And I wish somebody would hold my head under water and drown me before the next check in.

I'm going to share a dirty little secret.

I do a lot of work for a small independent agency still located on Mid Wilshire. For the longest time we've had a standing unwritten agreement. They hire me for a day's worth of thinking on any given project. They don't have the budget for long term bookings.

So they will often give me a project and say, "put a day's worth of thinking against this and get back to us in a week."

Guess what, I don't give them a day's worth of thinking. In the course of a week I often give them more. I think about the assignment. I let the juices stew. I take the challenge with me into the shower, the pool and onto the 405. And a week later, I usually have something good to show for my time.

I win.
They win.
The client wins.

I've shared this video before and I'll share it again because it bears repeating and I like the idea of you walking around with the musical ear worm in your head.





This explains why instead of game-changing ideas, we keep getting clocks.





Thursday, February 5, 2015

A Boy Named Roy



Last week, I relayed the events of a very surreal night and the strange disappearance of my wife that left us both standing squarely in the Twilight Zone.

Today, perhaps because we're still both a little shaken by the weirdness of that evening, I'm going to tear a few more pages from the book of the paranormal.

This story begins many years ago.

With a fresh sheepskin from Syracuse University in my hand and no apparent job offers or plans in my future, I snatched up a $99 one way airline ticket from Newark, NJ to Los Angeles, CA.

Didn't know a soul here.
Hadn't even booked a hotel room.
I simply got off the plane at LAX, hopped a bus towards UCLA and dragged a 40 lbs. duffel bag up and down Gayley Ave. hoping to rent a room from one of the frat houses.

I detested frat boys but knew the houses rented out rooms to boarders for the summer. I got lucky and landed a large room at a house near Westwood Village, Alpha Epsilon Gamma Who Gives A Fuck.

The house quickly filled up with guys who, like myself had come from all areas of the country.

There was Bruce, an aspiring actor from NYC. He had an acerbic tone and we made quick friends.

Marshall, a blond-haired, blue-eyed Jew from Colorado who looked like the unlikely poster boy for the How To Build the Master Race Manual. We never saw too much of Marshall, he was always getting laid.

There was Adam from Chicago, a sax-playing nerd who seemed happy to hanging around guys who weren't bullying him for the first time in his life.

And there was Justin Weiner. He had the thickest stutter I've ever heard. Words turned into sentences. Sentences turned into paragraphs. And paragraphs…I never stuck around long enough to see how those ended.

Justin made it known he had appeared in PlayGirl magazine. He also made it a point to parade around the house in the nude to show off his appp-pppp--pppp-endage. None of us were impressed. In fact, we gave him a new middle name, Justin Ordinary Weiner.

There was also a strange guy named Roy.

He lived up on the third floor, in a single room. He came from Wyoming or Montana, one of the sparsely populated square states now inhabited by open carry gun nuts and Illuminati conspiracists.

Roy never drank beer with us. Never smoked dope with us. Never went into Westwood Village to scarf up half eaten pizzas left on the tray at Jack Straw Pizza. There's an art to living cheaply.

Roy, a stocky, barrel chested, crew cut fireplug of a man, often stood on the corner somewhere and stared off into the distance. If ever I met someone with a Ted Kazinsky/John Gacey/Sam Berkowitz demeanor it was Roy.

The summer at that frat house remains one of the best in my life. My neck muscles are still aching from laughing so hard. Sadly, I've lost touch with all the guys who were part of that colorful adventure.

All but one.

A year after that memorable summer I was driving to job as an Assistant Kitchen Manager and saw Roy standing at the corner of Sawtelle and Santa Monica Blvd.

Three years later, while going to the movies with my girlfriend at the mall in Century City, I saw Roy leaning against street lamp.

Five years later I saw him again while running on San Vicente Blvd.

Los Angeles is a huge city and I can go years without running into friends or a familiar face, but like the Hitchhiker in Rod Sterling's Twilight Zone, Roy keeps on popping up.

I know this all sounds strange, but I would swear on a stack of Bibles/Koran/or Torah scrolls, that this phenomena is completely true.

I haven't seen him in awhile and maybe his decades-long stalking is about to reach its conclusion. If something should ever happen to me please tell the police to search for Roy from Wyoming. A husky, crew-cut guy with a thousand yard stare.

Oh and he's about the same age as me, 44.





Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Thank You Science



Can't remember where you left your car keys?

Is the Kale Emporium all out of Kale?

Or maybe you returned from the supermarket with the wrong brand of trash bags, the ones your wife specifically instructed you not to buy?

Don't blame it on Islamic terrorists or that crappy Open Office Plan foisted on you by the enlightened thinkers in the finance department, as I have been known to do.

It could be, so I'm told by people with a PhD. in Astrology, that it's due to Mercury entering Retrograde.

That's right, these little anomalies, these behavioral miscues, these something-is-just-not-right moments could be the result of the yearly wobbling rotation of a tiny planet that's only 48 million miles away from Planet Earth.

Living in a house with three women I'm well aware of the subtle and sometimes ugly mood changes brought about by the position of the moon and the lunar gravitational shifts it can produce.

But I was quite astonished by the encyclopedic information that has been amassed regarding this celestial phenomena. Scholarly data from Palm Readers, Horoscope Authors and Tarot Card Interpreters have all weighed in on Mercury in Retrograde.

Years ago, I seriously considered getting a Medical Alerts bracelet. Something to the effect of: Please pardon the wearer of this bracelet he has Tourette's Syndrome. Then, in the likely event of a blow up at work wherein I might let loose a flurry of some not-so-well-chosen words:

"Why would we do that, you witless clod of client douchebaggery?"

I could always blame it on the Tourette's.
I'd simply point out the bracelet and all would be forgiven.

In retrospect that seems so childish.

Now that I've got this Mercury in Retrograde in my back pocket, I'm good to go.

"Sorry about that temperamental outburst. And I probably shouldn't have questioned your "imbecilic" career choice, Mr. Chief Marketing Officer. But if you'd step up to this telescope I'd like to show you what's going 48 Million miles away."



Tuesday, February 3, 2015

пожалуйста


Last year at this time, anticipation was building for the Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

This was a heaven-sent birthday present to someone like me, who likes to poke fun of the Motherland.

Also as a second generation American who is from considerable Russian descent, there's nothing I like better than to have a laugh at the anti-Semitic, vodka-swilling dumbkoffs who were at one time were our mortal political enemies.

Russia, like North Korea, is the photographic gift that keeps giving.

So you can imagine my orgasmic delight when just a few days ago, a Facebook friend put up a link to a collection of photos from a Russian dating site. If you're not quivering now, take a deep breath, soon you will be.

The 200 lbs. female (in the red dress) laying next to the 300 lbs. Baltic Blue Gruper was one of my favorites. I'm pretty sure her Saturday Night Dance Card filled up quite quickly.

This came from one eager suitor:

"First, I shall take you to the smelt farm, where we will dine and take in the aroma of millions of smelt. Then, Dashka if I may call you that, we will push my 1957 Volga (needs a new carburetor) to a little club I know near the Barvika River. We will drink. We will dance. And I will get my front teeth knocked out in bar fight to protect your honor. Because that is how lovely you look to me." 

Oh God Rich, I can hear you saying through the Interwebs, please share more of these pictures.

Please.


That's not just any axe.

That's a family heirloom, passed down to her from her great, great grandfather, Grigori, a Kossack who made a name for himself pillaging schtettles and bringing home booty from the huts of old Jews. Klavdiya might consider using the trusty weapon for something other than cutting flowers. Track down some feral pigs or a slow-moving moose.

Eat something for god's sake.



There's an old maxim that women love a man with a sense of humor. From my single years, I know this to be true and can attest that in my youth scores of women simply threw themselves at me. I'm not so sure about the converse. Dressing up as a steer or a cow, there's some gender issues going on here, doesn't ring my horny bell. Maybe it works for Russian guys, who knows.

Also, what with the flower pot on the couch?

And then there's this.


I've been married a long time, and admittedly unfamiliar with the process of Internet dating, but I am very confused about the multiple women in one picture motif. How would a potential soul mate  respond to an ad like that?

"Hello I am Petrov. I am most interested in the girl wrapped in the Persian Rug. No, not the Persian rug with the circle patterns. The Persian Rug with the star shapes. The one that is tied to the Birch tree."  

If I were a prick and wanted to see my web traffic soar tomorrow as I am sure it will today, I could promise to put up the link to SIXTY THREE more of these classic Cyrillic beauties on Wednesday's R17 post. But despite what some people say, I am not a prick.

Enjoy.

You're welcome.



Monday, February 2, 2015

My apologies


I learned a lot about life working at Chiat/Day.

I learned about craft.
I learned about commitment.
I learned about unbridled passion.
I learned, or stole from other creatives, how to twist narratives and dig for the unexpected.
I learned about the incredible power generated by a group of talented people all working towards the same goal.

Later, I also came to learn about office politics.
The magical ascension of incompetence™.
And as Jay Chiat presciently predicted, how Creativity can be corrupted when supplanted by the blind pursuit of money.

But the one lesson I learned, perhaps the most important one, came to me in my first week at the old warehouse at 320 Main Street. A turn of phrase that might have been uttered by a senior creative, or more likely, one of the wily broadcast producers on staff.

"It is better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission."

I love this axiom and wish more people would put it to use.

In essence, it's a giant middle finger to those in power, or presume to be in power, and are fond of saying, "No."

It's a way of saying, I will do this the way I want to do this and it will be infinitely better than if I do this the way you want me to do this.

It stems from the philosophy, rightly or wrongly, that we, the art directors and the copywriters who have actually concepted, written and produced award-winning advertising might know a little something more than those who have never created or produced anything, with the exception of an Excel spreadsheet or a planning brief.

"Tone should be friendly, human and convey strong sense of industry innovation and thought leadership."

I still employ this guiding principle. But sadly don't see it evidenced in much of what goes on in today's creative departments.

We need to check with account people.
We need to run this by the CD.
We need to cross off all the boxes on this list of deliverables and go over the 249 page deck once more with a fine-tooth beard comb.

I realize that once again I've drifted into headstrong, cranky 44 year old man speak. I've charged ahead without giving too much thought to what I've said or even the consequences. And I hate that I've become the online embodiment of "get off my lawn."

To which I can only say, "I'm sorry."

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Hello Culver City


If you're like me, and you should thank your lucky stars you're not, you get tired of listening to me.

Hell, I reread this week's postings and I'm simply bored to death.

So I'm going to assume you need a respite. I know I do.

Today we're going very visual.

The map above shows Culver City. The astute among you will notice the oval like shape of the streets that comprise Carlson Park, my neighborhood, which at one time was a horse track, which later morphed into a racing car track with the arrival of the horseless carriages.

It all worked out quite well, except for the section I've circled. Somehow, like the idiots who planned our Metro Line without stops at LAX or Dodger stadium, someone forgot to pave Farragut Drive all the way through.

The passageway is simply an alley covered by a steel gauge fence.


Until recently this passageway was hardly noteworthy. But now it is literally and figuratively, quite noteworthy. Since one or several of the neighbors began hanging these very simple and iconic notes.

Here are but a few:









There were twenty more. And the attraction is gathering quite a bit of foot traffic.

You might be wondering do I have a favorite?
I do.

It came from the peanut gallery, someone who felt the need to add on to someone else's note about the collection.


I like a little sour with my sweet.

Thank you Satan.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

I See Dead Ideas


It's the part of the business I'll never get used to.

I'm not talking about the rejection. We all face rejection, copywriters and art directors perhaps more so than others.

I'm talking about the selection. More specifically, the selection of other ideas over and above the ones my partner and I put on the table.

I know I run the risk of appearing immodest and I'm going to be very thoughtful in the words I choose.

But, seriously, what the FUCK!

You sank 3/4 of a million dollars of precious production money, fought off countless focus groups and twisted the arm of the CMO, the CIO and the CEO, to run that?

They trained an elephant to paint pictures, maybe he's available to work on Phase 2?

You'd think by this middle to late stage of my career I'd be over all this. That, as a freelancer I could simply brush it all off, look at the deposits in my bank account and say, "at least the check cleared."

But the Tom Brady in me can't.

I'm simply too competitive.

Even at 44 I have a raging fire in my belly. Sometimes that fire migrates to my lower intestine. And sometimes it works its way up to my esophagus in the form of heartburn. The point is, the fire is still there and it's not going away until they plant me in the ground and I come back as a poison oak.

That doesn't mean I have to win every creative shootout. And hoot and holler in an obnoxious victory dance. And rub it in the face of my younger, hipper-than-thou colleagues who wanted to do something with hashtags and Will I Am.

Who am I kidding, that's exactly what it means.

I don't know how to make that go away.
Or if I should even try.

Maybe I'll just switch from dark roast coffee to something in the light-to medium range?
That's a start.




Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Traveling through another dimension


Last week I convinced my wife to go Alejo's Italian Restaurant on Lincoln Blvd.

We used to frequent the place quite often, as the bread is fresh baked and there's never a long wait to get a table. My two most important criteria for picking a restaurant in Los Angeles.

However, Alejo's has fallen out of favor recently, its frumpy dining room no longer as appetizing as it once was when my wife and I were escorting two screaming toddlers.

And yet, through the power of persuasion and some well-honed marital passive aggressiveness, I was able to convince my wife to go back to Alejo's. Their chopped salad is second to none. And this is what a successful marriage is all about. Compromise. Give and take.

She agrees to cheap Italian food.
I agree to give up a weekend to shop for new an inordinately-expensive living room furniture.

On the way to the restaurant, it was raining. Not newsworthy in any other part of the country, but here in Southern California I've seen more water coming out of my neighbor's hose, in order to wash his two white trash monster trucks, than I've seen fall from the sky.

Hugging the median of Jefferson Blvd., I slowed down because the woman in the Honda Civic in front of me appeared to be making a left turn.

But then, she wasn't.

At 50+ mph the car veered left and then, a split second later, veered right. She missed the road sign by a centimeter. And then, in the middle of fast moving traffic she slammed on the brakes and parked the car in the fast lane. The door swung open and the driver leapt from the car, hunched over and appeared to be returning her lunch to Mother Earth.

I stopped too. I had no other option.

And before I could look in my rearview mirror for oncoming traffic, my wife had jumped out of the car and ran to assist Mrs. Mario Andretti.

I've never needed hazard lights before and despite the superb Japanese ergonomic design on my old Lexus, could not locate my flashers. So I quickly skedaddled over to the right. And because there is no shoulder on Jefferson Blvd., I had to find the nearest street to turn off and park the car. About 1/4 mile away.

I ran through the uneven sidewalks, which is more like a lunar landscape thanks to the roots of Chinese Elm trees bursting through the pavement. And I caught a mouthful of dirty rainwater when a truck rolled by and tore through a puddle that would not be there 364 other days of the year.

When I reached the spot where my wife was, she wasn't.

And neither was the Honda Civic.

I yelled her name in the pouring rain.


She was gone.

I ran back to my car. Called her cell phone. And then I heard the ringing of her cell phone in her purse, which was still in the driver's seat of my car.

I drove back to the scene of the near accident and couldn't find her. Circled around again, in this stretch that had no streetlights, and still couldn't find her. Without her phone, she couldn't find me.

It was all playing out like a bad Jeff Bridges movie.

What if she's gone?
What if Vomiting Lady kidnaped her?
What if I never see my wife again?

Then I started thinking.

What picture should I upload for my new JDate profile?
What about Tinder?
Should I wear a baseball cap to conceal my baldness?

A thousand questions flooded my brain.

After circling round and round again, I finally spotted her near the parking lot of Home Depot. She was drenched. And crying. And very upset with the whole incident.

When we arrived at Alejo's my wife explained how the woman had a panic attack and was temporarily blinded. Thankfully, Debbie, my first responder, was there to talk her down from the ledge.

We ordered wine and beer and enjoyed the classic Alejo's chopped salad.

It'll probably be the last time I'll ever get to eat there again.




Monday, January 26, 2015

Premature Exhbition


A week from today, the country will be talking about the Big Super Bowl.

And in my sad circle, friends and colleagues will be talking about the Big Super Bowl spots.

Not to crush anybody's spirit, but we'll be the only ones talking about the advertising come next Monday. Our collective naval-gazing has reached epic proportions. And make no mistake, I'm as guilty, if not guiltier, than most.

Of course some smart advertisers are not waiting a week. They'd like you to start forgetting about their marketing extravaganza right this second.

They've labored months, sacrificed weekends and played countless games of Scrabble or Candy Crush during production status meetings -- the thinking goes -- why waste all that human capital on one showing during a football game everyone is too drunk to remember?

So, they've pre-released their spots.

And shot their wad before the big game.

It's better, they'll argue, because all the non-existent buzz they've deluded themselves into believing, can begin earlier. People will have an opportunity to view their content more often. And, and this is a big deal, they can squeeze another extra 100 likes on the youtube channel.

If only I had employed such dexterous logic during my dating days when "getting out to an early start" was not embraced with such enthusiasm.

Call me Old School, but this grizzled 44 year old isn't buying it.

The idea of the Super Bowl spot is to reach through the flat screen TV, stop people in the middle of their Tostitos snack-sharing community moments™, and crack open their heads with 60 seconds of razzle dazzle that will have fans saying:

"That was fucking great. Why can't they make movies as good as they make the commercials?"

For those of you too young to remember, that's the way it was when Apple's 1984 spot first aired.

Or Monster.com's "When I Grow Up".

Or Miller Lite's "Evil Beaver."

And even more recently, Dodge's "God Made a Farmer."

But now, in the service of social media and the chase for Likes and ReTweets, we've taken the element of surprise out of the hands of art directors and copywriters. It goes right in the dust bin. And sits next to long copy, wit, and intelligence; tools that are no longer useful in today's world of advertising.

If there's any buzz going on this week it's being generated by disgruntled creatives still upset with the redesign of the AgencySpy.com website or it's young media planners gathered round their supervisor's cubicle…

"Hit the refresh button, see if we reached 7500 views yet."