Wednesday, August 12, 2020

A visit backstage

There's a bar about a quarter mile from my house. It's up the street at the corner of Culver Blvd. and Motor Ave. If you're having trouble reading the neon sign, it's called the Backstage. Or perhaps it's the Cocktails Backstage.

It's been there for close to an eternity. Why would they give a bar that name, you might be asking. Well, what you can't tell from the picture is the bar's amazing proximity to one of the world's largest movie studios -- Sony Pictures.

To see that, let's stop looking at the front of the Backstage and look more closely at the back of the Backstage.

There, in the background is the arched Motor Ave. entrance to what is now Sony Pictures. In days of yore, the studio was home to MGM. And every movie star you can name has driven those heavily guarded gates. I once ran into Seth Rogen at the Shell station on the right.

Moreover, many of those actors, actresses, directors and producers -- notice I didn't mention writers because writers never get any credit or recognition, just Google the joke about the Polish actress -- who played their wares at the old MGM studio, often finished a long day of shooting with a long night of drinking at the Backstage.

It's said that Humphrey Bogart, Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster were regulars here.

When I do picture them tossing a few back after 100 some odd takes on a scene that would eventually never make it past the cutting room floor, I imagine them chain smoking cigarettes at the seedy bar. Seated on leather seats that were ripped and duct taped for posterity. And knocking back shots of blended whiskey, none of that fancy single malt crap. And chasing it with flat beer that made up in sheer coldness, what it lacked in carbonation.

I see them bitching, arguing and fighting with some uncouth fan from Iowa who had the temerity to interrupt their hard drinking.

"Get outtttta my house," I picture Bogart slurring, adding, "before I introduce your fat skull to the curb."

That romantic era of Hollywood is long gone now. And the bar is home to millennials and Gen Z'ers, who prefer to entertain themselves with karaoke and open mic Talent Nights. You can be sure they no longer serve Pike's, the ale the won for Yale.

At least, that's what they were doing before the President dropped the meat in the dirt and led us into this pandemic clusterfuck.

The bar is closed now. Hopefully, they'll re-open soon.

Maybe after living next door to them for close to thirty years, I should stop in for a drink?

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

My new Avatar

Like many of you, I find myself on back to back to back Zoom calls these days. Only the company I work for doesn't use Zoom, we're on the Google plan. A difference without distinction. The point being is that I'm on camera all day long.

The camera and I are not good friends, so I will often turn it off and resort to an avatar. This brought on sudden pangs of panic the other day, as I had been using a photo of Pai Mei, from the Kill Bill movie, as my icon.

For the unfamiliar...

Those that know me, know I lean towards the irreverent. Accordingly, I thought it was completely innocuous to use this photo.

But we live in a time where sensitivities are high. And lawsuits are plenty. It occurred to me, during a call that included the company CEO and CMO, that someone, of Asian descent or not, might take offense to my usage of this character. Ignoring that fact that I admire Pai Mei for his unflinching grouchiness. And godlike agility.

And so, bowing to an abundance of caution and my sudden awokeness, I went searching for a replacement avatar. And found the cartoon pictured above.

This of you who put in time at Chiat/Day, will recognize the handiwork of in-house storyboard artist extraordinaire, Hank Hinton, another man of legendary curmudgeonliness. It was something he scratched out for me many, many, many years ago.

I laughed and didn't give it a second thought then. But I'm glad I had the good sense to hold onto it now. You see not only has Hank had a hand in every groundbreaking ad campaign to ever come of out Chiat/Day, he drew the storyboards for Apple's 1984, the spot some say is the greatest commercial ever made. Thus linking me, in the most insignificant way ever, with a little piece of advertising history.

I would hope this post would somehow come across Hank's iPhone or laptop. Because it's my way of saying Thank You. But I'm pretty sure it won't.

In fact, if you were to ask Henry if he reads Roundseventeen, I'm sure his reply would be something like...

"Why would I read that asshole's shit?"

I wouldn't have it any other way.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Today's Topic: Mushroom

If I were to ask you to name the largest living thing on Earth you might be tempted to go with The Blue Whale. Or the Sperm Whale. Or the Grey Whale. To be honest, I have no ideas what separates the species.

If I were to narrow it down a little ask you to name the largest living thing on dry land, you might answer the Elephant. Or at one time, the Brontosaurus. Or Stegasaurus. Or something something-aurus, again, I'm an idiot when it comes to dinosaurs, but my nephew knows for sure.

If I were to narrow it down even further and ask you to name the largest living, plant or animal, you might pick the Giant Sequoia. Ditto.

But we live in a world inhabited not just by plants and animals, but by organisms.

Ladies and gentlemen I give you the lowly Mushroom. Or in this case, the not so lowly Oregon Honey Mushroom, the largest living organism on the planet. It's tucked away, fittingly, in Eastern Oregon, home to many Nazis and White Supremacists, and other bottom feeders.

Scientitians say the Mushroom can be more than 8,000 years old. Older than Joe Biden. And it covers more than 2200 acres, more than Precedent Shitgibbon's combover hair. If you were to scoop it up from the ground, it's estimated it would weigh up to 3500 tons.

You might be wondering why I'm so suddenly fascinated by mushrooms.

I had no choice as they have suddenly invaded my yard.

Moreover, the neighbors have invaded my yard, meaning people walking up and down the street have stopped to take snapshots of this fungal phenomena (Fungal Phenomena, great name for a band.)

Last week some old codger -- funny how I see older folks and make derisive comments about them yet fail to realize that at 44 years old I'm quickly becoming an old codger myself -- stopped to take some pictures with his big Cellular One flip phone. I stopped what I was doing, probably watch Sara Cooper videos or making my own memes about Captain Ouchie Foot, and stepped outside to chat with Grandpa.

Good thing I did. Because he explained what I was seeing in my yard, was literally just the tip of the fungal (love that word) iceberg. He said there was probably a gargantuan mushroom growing beneath the surface, eating up dead organisms, as fungi were made to to do.

All of which made sense because years ago we had cut down a huge tree in our yard. A tree with an invasive root system. The dead roots were left underground. And now, apparently, the mushroom had started eating away at it.

I asked Methusalah what I should do about the explosion of mushrooms on my lawn.

He said to do nothing. Let the ugly mushroom do its job, eventually this tentacled organism will scarf up as much as it can, and the unsightly, possibly toxic fungus will go away. And in a strange turn of events the decay from the mushroom will serve as nutrients for healthy, beautiful plants.

I know there's a metaphor in there somewhere.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

A word about choices

Inspired by my recent Covid-related garage overhaul, some good friends of ours, longtime friends of ours, recently tore apart their car storage unit and uncovered some treasures. Including this picture of my wife and I from the early 90's. The early 1890's.

Thankfully, that awful pebbly sweater no longer exists. I believe it was donated to Goodwill or cut into pieces and turned into car washing rags.

It was stark reminder of a past life. Including my checkered hit or miss dating days. Clearly I won the jackpot when I met my wife, because let's face it, I'm not everyone's cup of tea. Frankly, I'm always surprised that I'm anyone's cup of tea.

That was made apparent last week as my long running social media political commentary came under attack. Not from some anonymous snaggled toothed hillbilly in Alabama, or even some pathetic clueless "doctor" from Kansas, but from people who I know and think highly of.

Or did.

You see, had they questioned my data or my sourcing or how I reached a certain opinion regarding the failed economy, the president's feckless mismanagement of the coronavirus crisis or even my assessment of GOP malevolence, that would be one thing. But, and I may be wrong here, they seemed more perturbed with my relentless hounding of one candidate to the exclusion of the other.

One former colleague even suggested that while I was, at one time, a good advertising writer I should not venture into politics because I didn't know what I was talking about. My robust data bank on the foibles of Commander Fuckknuckle suggest otherwise.

Indeed, they (meaning more than one) audaciously suggested how I could temper my position with posts about this, that and the other thing.

I think you can probably guess how that turned out.

I'm pretty thick skinned. In fact I'm thick everything. I have a thick neck, a thick nose, a thick waist, everything about me is thick. Except for my hairline. And so that type of criticism runs off me like water off my thick back.

I'm also of a certain age and a certain stage in my life, when I don't really care what others think of me. I'm not doing any of this to change votes or sway political opinions or win the most important election this country will ever face.

I'm simply venting.
I'm exercising my creative muscle.
And I'm expressing myself. And getting a few good laughs from the endeavor.

You don't have to like it. You don't even have to read it.

The mouse on my computer has a scrolling function. It allows me to skim past crap I don't want to see. If your mouse has the same capability, I suggest you use it.

Failing that, the stinging rebukes of the stupidest man on the planet will continue. And with every "Person Woman Man Camera TV" or "It is what it is" stumble, will no doubt increase in frequency up to the election.

Or, in the incomprehensible vernacular of Reese's Peanut Butter Cup: Sorry, not sorry.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Let's eat

For reasons I need not explain, my wife no longer visits the supermarket. Though she would give anything for that type of outting.

"A stroll down the produce aisle, that would be heaven. ROMAINE LETTUCE!!!" she pines.

And so the hunting and gathering of groceries falls on my broader than average shoulders -- I bench pressed 245 lbs. a few weeks ago. Only worth mentioning because I did it while I was drunk. And old.

I like going to the grocery store. I especially like going to the grocery store without my wife. Because it means we can get all the good stuff I like to eat: creamed herring, white horseradish and Red Hot tortilla chips, though not all at once.

You know, the foods she conveniently leaves off her list.

Also, I don't like the idea of a list. I prefer to go up and down the aisles and picture scenarios in the upcoming week where I might want Bubby's Jewish pickles, chocolate granola cereal or Teriyaki Beef Jerky. And then, mindlessly, I put them all in my cart.

Though we are a health driven family, given to high protein, natural produce, fewer carbs and even fewer saturated fats, these days it's hard not to push good nutrition to the side in favor of convenience.

We all work, my wife, myself and my finicky 24 year old daughter, who is whip smart and would make a great employee for any ad agency, production company or client side marketing department in search of a unicorn.

Hence, in my hunt for ease and convenience, I was gravitationally pulled toward the frozen food aisle, where I snagged three frozen DiGiorno pizzas. Thankfully, this newbie took a good long look at the boxes. Because I almost made the mistake of getting three Hawaiian style pizzas with pineapple.
That's not pizza in my book. That's an abomination. And the fact that Hawaiians eat pizza with pineapple as well as spam, makes me more than suspect and lead me to conclude we should allow them to secede from the union.

Sadly, the Syracuse-cold section of the supermarket did not have any frozen blintzes in stock. I know, I've made mention of this before, but I love blintzes. Again, apparently my wife doesn't, as she has never brought any home.

Compensating for this, I sallied back to the packaged food aisle and grabbed a few boxes of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese (cue the Celine Dion music). I was even lucky enough to snag a box with Disney's Frozen characters on the packaging (see above.)

I spent more than a good hour cruising the local Pavilions market, while sporting my FUCK TRUMP face mask.

I accumulated 10 bags of food, including my favorite bourbon, a tomahawk steak and enough beer to get me through a lockdown should we ever get out of the first Coronavirus wave and move into a second.

In total, I spent $413.79.

But I'm not done.

I'm going back tomorrow. That's when I'm told they'll be restocking the freezer with blintzes.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

The King of Queens

I'm about 3/4 of the way through Mary Trump's new book detailing the more personal side of Grandpa Ramblemouth's ascent to the highest position on the planet. I'm still flabbergasted when I put those words to paper.

I probably should wait until finishing the 210 page tell-all, but between memeing, lifting weights, tree trimming, drain unclogging, dog poop picking upping, bill paying, groin muscle stretching and all the other activities that occupy a 44 year old man's working life, who knows when I'll get to finish the last 50 pages?

As I have noted before, The Donald and I share some scary similarities.

We are both first generation Americans, born to Scottish mothers.

We both spent our childhood in Queens, NY. He, in fancy schmancy Jamaica Estates. And me in Jackson Heights and Flushing. There's nothing remotely fancy schmancy about a place called Flushing.

And we both had severe, empathy-challenged, domineering fathers.

The first half of the book delves into great detail about Mary's father, Freddy (Trump's older alcoholic brother), who like me, was the first born son who bucked at following in his father's predetermined footsteps. It led Freddy to a rebellious life of excessive drinking and disease. It led me to advertising.

Donald, appears in the second half of the book, opportunistically shoving his older brother to the side and using his oily charm to step into his father's good graces. Not surprisingly that's where the money was at. He also tried the snake away all the money in the old man's will, but fell two ink strokes short of closing that deal.

From the very beginning we witness the habits, mannerisms and piss poor work ethic, that has followed him right into the Oval Office.

When his business ventures went south, he declared bankruptcy. And rather than learn his lesson, he doubled down on the very arrogance that landed him in Chapter 11. It got so bad that the folks at Deutschbank had to put him on a $450,000 a month allowance. And, if you hadn't guessed, Commander Fuckknuckle quickly ignored those limits and spent money as if he'd never have to pay the bills.

Which he often didn't.

It's that same refusal to be held accountable that has given us this.

As an avid Trump hater, and I have no shame about saying that. I HATE this man with a passion, for what he has done to this country and continues to do. And for what he hasn't done. As I write this, it is Saturday morning. The twitter machine has just told me he has arrived at his own private golf course, for the 7,925, 461st time.

Eleven days ago, and 6 months too late, he told a corps of press reporters and TV journalists (meaning it's on tape) that he was in the middle of "developing a very, very powerful strategy for dealing with coronavirus."

Apparently that strategy involves a fairway wood.

Fuck him.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Ahhhh, the freelance life.

Ever since I started writing Roundseventeen, I have made it a point to mark an anniversary.

This year, amidst the mask wearing, the hand washing and the nail biting over the fate of our beloved country, I somehow forgot to pen the annual post. And so, two months late, I am penning that obligatory post.

I remember the day in June, 2004 as if it were yesterday. Hell every day seems like yesterday. And every tomorrow feels like today. Or something profound like that.

I was coming home from my job down in Irvine, California. Home of chain restaurants, faux Mediterranean residential architecture, and intellectually challenged, mask averse people who regularly appear in internet memes because they want to believe this whole pandemic is a hoax. Or worse, a devilish government plot and 5G towers.

I'm not clear on the mechanics of that, but neither are they.

The drive from the parking lot at Y&R/Irvine to my home in Culver City is (was) 56.3 miles. But who's counting? And that's only if I snagged one of the prime parking spots, which I never did because of my late arrival because the drive is 56.3 miles. Did I mention that?

On this one particularly horrendous commute home, there were snags on the 405, the 90, and the 605. Culminating with a jack-knifed truck on the westbound 105. In sum, it took me an hour and 45 minutes to traverse the 56.3 miles. By the time I walked in the front door, my two daughters had been tucked in and gone to bed. Meaning I would not get a chance to read Zundl The Tailor to them.

As I was eating dinner, by myself, and pulling the last hairs from my head, hairs # 137, 138 & 139, I turned to my wife and said, "I don't know how much longer I can do this."

The job was not all that rewarding. We were doing respectable car work for Jaguar (nothing great). And  I had some good kids in my group, many of whom have gone on to become awarded creative directors. And I was working with an industry legend, John Doyle, and another industry hero, my buddy John Hage. But that damned 56.3 mile commute was ripping the life from me.

"Why don't you quit?" my wife said in a her quiet, nonplussed wise way.

"I can't just quit. I don't have another job to go to. And there just aren't a lot of agencies who are going to hire a 44 year old writer making that kind of money."

She was too busy cleaning off the kitchen counter and putting away the leftovers. She shrugged her shoulders and repeated her earlier advice, "Just quit. It'll work out. It always does."

And so, for the first time in my advertising career, I left a job voluntarily, without having another job offer waiting in the wings.

In a fateful instant I had ceased to be a highly remunerated Group Creative Director, SVP at a major Holding Company ad agency and had become an unemployed freelance copywriter, with no plans but to not drive my car for as long as possible.

It was the best decision I have ever made in my life.

Except for the decision to marry my wife.
Except for the decision to listen to my wife and buy a house in Culver City.
Except for the decision of heeding my wife's advice again and putting a second story on the house and installing that expensive quartz counter in the master bathroom.

Let's just say it was good decision.

Because my freelance career blossomed. Soon I was booked. Double booked. And even triple booked. Making more money in one year than many CCO's, burdened with clients, shareholder worries, and dusk to midnight meetings. The kind of life that lands many in my shoes in Divorce Court or an early start on the Dirt Nap.

It's been, and continues to be, a great ride. Allowing me to do the thing (perhaps the only thing) I enjoy most about being in advertising -- the writing.

My only hope is that this trajectory continues. And that I am still clicking and clacking and cashing checks until I'm the ripe old age of 45.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Listen to your gut

I'm going to do something I haven't done in close to ten years. I'm posting a TV spot I wrote and actually got produced.

But before I unveil it, I have some qualifiers. I'm part of a league of older ad vets who marvel at what kids are posting today. Not only are they showing off their work, they're listing the 137 people who had a hand in their masterpiece.

Put simply, most of it is just not worthy of a brag. And, cards on the table, neither is what I am about to show you. But it's Thursday. It's been a long week. I'm still nursing a painful groin muscle pull. And at 44 years of age, who knows when I'll be able to post any new TV work.

More qualifiers.

This and the other two spots I wrote are PSAs. That's not to say that PSAs are obliged to be bad. But, as we all know production budgets on PSA are often the equivalent to the price of a new Hyundai Sonata.

Over and above that, when Dotsie (the Olympic athlete who heads up the organization and appears in the spot) came to me, the structure and the concept were already in place.

Furthermore, apart from my post production editing notes ("Make it slower and simpler"), I had no part in the production.

Oh and I barely made a nickel on the project.

Is this work going in my portfolio? No, it is not.

Nevertheless, all that said, I'm happy with the result. I think the spots make their point. And that they'll have an impact. Web traffic is already soaring.

Besides after a career of selling beer, banks, computers, shitty airlines, shittier cars and carbonated brown sugar water, it felt good to apply my skills  -- such as they are -- towards a good cause. I have a lot of ground to make up. And this was a good first step.

If you hunt around the interwebs, you can find the other two spots about going vegan and living dairy free.

While you do that I'm gonna fire up the grill. I've got a well marbled Tomahawk steak on the menu. Followed by a bowl of Ben and Jerry's Chunky Monkey ice cream.

I love those thick little chips of chocolate.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

We'd like to keep you.

"You've been extended."

When you're a freelancer, as I have been for the last 16 years, those are perhaps the three sweetest words in the advertising industry. Especially now during these pandemic times when the advertising boat seems to be taking on water.

Oh who are we kidding, the whole world is taking on water.

Mind you, a freelance extension isn't always a bowl of ripe $13.99/lbs. cherries. I've freelanced at agencies and shops in the past when I was counting down the days until it was over. Let's face it there are lots of assnuggets in this business.

And they know who they are. Particularly if they've been following this blog.

If they don't know who they are, it's because they're not reading the room or they're too busy counting their money and don't give a hamster's hind about the people who work for them and put food in the refrigerators of their second homes or yachts.

But the people I'm working for now are not like that. I genuinely like them. And that's something. If you've been a reader for any time, even a week, you know I can be quite the misanthrope.

And though I'm making a fraction of what I formerly earned, I really don't care. Because the job entails coming up with funny ideas and sharing lots of laughs with significantly younger people. At 44, I  would dare suggest I'm the oldest guy working for the company. And being the most juvenile man on the planet, I am in many ways, the youngest.

In any case, it's good to be working steadily. Particularly since my wife has been hocking me to install a fire pit in the backyard. Which will require trenching up the lawn. As well as the construction of a raised deck, because you can't just plunk a pit in the middle of the grass, light up a Duraflame log and call it a day. And on that deck you're gonna need some chairs, sturdy, comfortable, durable outdoor chairs whose price tag will surely induce a small heart attack.

"Why a fire pit?" I ask.

"So we can entertain," she replies.

What is the point of having people over, I mull over silently in my head. Can't we just set up a zoom meeting? Entertaining people is so much work. It means deep cleaning the house. The assembling of Martha Stewart-like appetizer trays. Passing a wardrobe inspection. The promise to curb my bourbon consumption. Showering. And shaving.

(Sidenote: I have recently discovered the joy of a proper skincare regimen and find myself exfoliating, followed by a precision shave with a creamy lather, followed by an intensely satisfying application of a post shave skin moisturizer. Damn I can't believe it took me this long to find out about all this.)

In summary:

1. I have a long term extension on my job, thrilled.
2. We're getting a firepit, people are coming over, they'll eat up all my good cheese, not so thrilled.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Stop you're making me blush

Last week a friend of a high school buddy called me out on Facebook. He said, and I quote...

"You're a blazing fucking asshole!!!"

That made my day. It made my night as well. Indeed, the joy of reading that passion-filled invective has made my week. So much so that Mr. P*&$@3*'s insult has inspired an entire R17 post.

Why? Because as I often quote from Winston Churchill, "if you're not making enemies you're doing something wrong." Meaning of course that I must be doing something right. And I hear that quite often. Not to humblebrag but many of you have written me private missives or stated your appreciation in the many posts I put up on social media:

"You are a breath of fresh air."

"Rich you are my spirit animal."

"Keep it going Rich, you're a legend."

I'm not big on compliments. Sure, like everyone else, I enjoy the flattery. But it pales in comparison to the joy of being called a blazing fucking asshole!

You might be wondering what enraged a man I do not know and have never met, to unload on me in such a spirited and provocative manner? As you might have guessed it was one of my many riffs on our Uberfuhrer, aka Precedent Shitgibbon, aka Commander Fucknuckle, aka Captain Ouchie Foot, aka Grandpa Ramblemouth.

Apparently the offended party took issue with my relentless presidential hounding.

Admittedly, I am guilty of overusing my social media platform in that pursuit. But only because the fate of the nation depends on his quick and decisive expulsion from the White House, a fact that seems lost on 60 million Red Hats.

The other thing is, I'm hardwired for this.

Like many of you, I've made my bones in advertising. And like many of you, in the Creative Department. And so you know, as well as anyone, there's a natural inclination to land on a concept and to create as many iterations that spring forth from it. That's what we do.

To wit, the following:

See, I'm not just a blazing fucking asshole. I'm a prodigious blazing fucking asshole.

Finally, the offended party made one last comment about the repetitive nature of my ranting. Conveniently ignoring the repetitive whiny little bitch at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

He accused me of making the same old tired points about the 11% unemployment, the trillion dollar deficits, the negative GDP (on Friday the we will get the Q2 numbers and will officially be in a recession) and the soaring US debt. And this where Robert ....ooops.... couldn't be more wrong.

Last week when I commented about our collective IOU, we owed $26.57 trillions dollars. As you can see here, that number has increased by a few billion dollars. So you see, it's not repetitive, it's different.

Thanks Bobby.


Please feel free to let me know which Person Woman Man Camera TV is your favorite.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Unfertile territory

I might be the world's worst Doomsday Prepper. Which is odd considering I've made a career in advertising and lived through a thousand doomsdays.


Thank you folks, I'll be here all week. Try the veal.

Take the "garden" pictured above, for example.

I planted it a little more than two months ago. Seventy five dollars worth of plants, hand-curated potting and top soil, and a bag of super deluxe citrus and vegetable fertilizer guaranteed to put a cornucopia of legumes, greens and cruciferous goodies in your crisper drawers. By the way it was only recently that I discovered the drawers at the bottom of the fridge were called Crisper drawers. I know where the ice cream and the beer goes, that's the extent of my refrigerator logistics knowledge.

To date, the "garden" has produced two Serrano peppers that were distinctively not hot. Or at least not hot enough for my iron gut. And one tiny tomatillo, that was barely the size of a BB. If the apocalypse happened tomorrow, I'd have the makings for a salsa that would barely feed an entire family of amoebas.

According to the handy dandy veggie markers that came with my overpriced plantings, the Better Boy tomatoes should be revealing themselves any day now. But I'll believe that when I see it.

After all, this is 2020, the year of broken promises. I'm as likely to see big, beefy shiny red tomatoes as I am to see a vaccine for Covid, people wearing masks and the collective recognition of 60 million Red Hats that they've been swindled, hoodwinked and bamboozled by the greatest con man to ever walk the planet.

It wasn't always like this. There were productive years when my wife and I had three raised bed gardens and had more tomatoes, peppers, radishes, and cucumbers then we knew what to do with. One year the cucumber vines were so prodigious they crawled in through an open window and took over the guest bedroom.

Of course, starving will be only one of the many nightmares facing the Siegels in the upcoming dystopian era. I'm woefully unprepared when it comes to energy.

Oh sure, we have flashlights. We're camping people so we have enough flashlights to open a Flashlight Store: Mag lights, headlamp lights, belt buckle lights, you name it, I've got a plastic bin full of them. Also, scattered around the Siegel compound I've got batteries for the multitude of flashlights: A, AA, AAA, AAAA, C, D, 9 volt, etc. And as you might have guessed, they're all in various stages of rigor mortis.

And lastly, perhaps the greatest sin any Doomsday Prepper could commit, I am without weaponry.

I am not unfamiliar with the joy of shooting off a gun.

I'm also not unfamiliar with myself, nor is my wife, and know my hotheadedness can sometimes get the best of me. In a very odd Trumpian way, I have no tolerance for being taken advantage of or in any way victimized, in even the slightest of manners. I suspect growing up in NYC has a lot to do with that. And so, wisely, I do not own a gun. Apart from our camping hatchet and my Leatherman multipurpose knife, we are completely defenseless.

I suppose that's OK. Frankly I have no desire to live in a Mad Max world. Similarly I recently completed Cormac McCarthy's "The Road", and want no part of it. I hope to go out in a blaze of nuclear glory, like the unsuspecting park goers in the Terminator movie.

If post cataclysmic marauders want to raid my house and take my one marble sized radish, they're more than welcome to it.

I'd prefer the Dirt Nap.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Slay the windmills

I'm afraid America is missing the boat.

The Lamestream Media, with their communist partners in the Democratic Party and their pinko celebrity friends in Hollywood and their 7.5 billion cohorts around the globe, have fooled us. They've faked their illnesses. Built phony gravesites. Put a half a million corpses in the ground. Wailed a trillion alligator tears. And have worked us up into a frenzy with this Coronavirus Hoax.

And that's what it is folks, a hoax. A Plandemic. Fake Nuisance. There must be 20-21 names for this thing, But it's not real. It was all cooked up to make President Donald J. Trump look bad.

Why? Because our president, our mighty stable genius, more mighty and more stable and more geniuser than any other man or woman on the planet has identified the real threat to humanity.

Its wind. And its tool for our destruction, windmills.

My wife can tell you the dangers about breaking wind. She and my daughters are oh so familiar with its deleterious effects. Particularly after Taco Night. But don't take it from me. Let's harken back to April 3rd, 2019.

Chilling, isn't it?

And yet the construction of these killing machines goes on, unabated. And the machines, already built, continue to whir, spreading their oncologolical destruction throughout the land.

Painfully aware of how hard it is to convince people to heed common sense medical advice, I decided to dig into this matter. And conduct my own research, knowing that if I could find an expert, someone from the medical field with unimpeachable credentials, someone who has published a paper on the often ignored field of Noisy Windmill Cancer, perhaps America would start listening.

Here is Dr. Vinnie Boombatz, and a short excerpt from a paper he authored in the Bakersfield Journal of Medicine and Manure.

In addition to the many bald eagles taken down by these oversized turbines, there are untold numbers of small planes that were snatched from the air and now lie in ruin and decay at the base of the tri-blade monsters. 

But the real threat is mitochondrial and intra-cellular. My initial findings show the whirring and the rrrrraa-rrrrra-rrrra sound the windmills make, have caused chromosomal damage in the eustachian tubes. Leukocytes in the adjoining regions of the cerebellum are thus distracted from their function, leading to abnormal growth of malignancies in the temporal lobe. Brain function and critical thinking decreases. 

And people just stupid themselves to death.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

The Celebrity Game

Last week, there was a little game floating around Facebook and social media. It didn't catch on like other very popular frivolities foisted upon Americans by sneaky Chinese software developers for the purpose of harvesting your data, like "if you were a Legume, which one would you be."

Maybe it did catch on and I just didn't see it because I've been kind of busy at work and discovering the joys of Zoom fatigue.

I may not be up on all my pop internet culture, but I recognize an easy blog posting when I see one.

So here goes.

The idea is to list 5 celebrities I have met and ask friends and family to spot the one celebrity who was an unmitigated buttwipe. Here are my five:

1. Drew Carey
2. Tommy Lasorda
3. Will Arnett
4. Helen Hunt
5. Bill Maher

As a student of human behavior and someone who considers himself a good observationalist, I'm gonna say most of you selected #5 Bill Maher. His unmistakable snobbery and intellectual arrogance can be smelled from quite a distance. So he would be a natural first pick.

Guess what? You'd be wrong.

In fact, you'd be wrong if you picked any of the above, because the truth is they were all quite unpleasant, to wit...

1. We, my old partner john Shirley and I, met Drew Carey while on the set of his ABC show. He agreed to give us an hour out of his busy day to shoot a promo for his show. And he did it grudgingly. We were there to promote HIS goddamned show. So what's with all the attitude Drew?

Many of the stars on network TV can't be bothered to carve out a little time to promote their own stupid, shitty shows. The funniest moment came when he complained about being under the hot 10K lights and wanted a Diet Pepsi. Watching 20 PA's scramble at full speed to get Mr. Sweaty Celebrity a cool drink was one of the highlights in my pathetic career.

2. Tommy Lasorda was making a cameo appearance in one of our early Nissan commercials. He showed up late. Ate three servings of craft service lasagna. Gave us five takes. Reluctantly. And had his limo drive him back home. You know, just in time for dinner.

3.  On screen, Will Arnett comes off as smarmy, aloof, better than thou and smarmy. Let's just say it doesn't take a lot of acting chops for Will to pull that off.

4. Years ago we were shooting at a soundstage at Culver Studios, about a mile from my house. Half of that facility is now being converted to a huge Amazon hub. Lucky us. On the adjoining soundstage, they were filming Mad About You. It was there I met Paul Reiser, a funny, warm and genuinely mensch-y type guy. While we were there Paul introduced us to his co-star Helen Hunt, who was none of the above.

5. A long, long time ago, my partner John Shirley and I, as well as the entire team working on the ABC account, were invited to a gala black tie event in Pasadena. It was about as glitzy as an Oscars or Emmy  ceremony. The stars and their entourages were in full view and were mingling with the civilians. There was also an abundance of fancy food and an open bar with several types of yearning-to-be-sampled whiskeys.

Hours into the affair I encountered Mr. Maher on the patio. Perhaps it was the Knob Creek talking or perhaps it was the signature Siegel self-righteous indignation that led to this:

"So you don't like the new ABC campaign?"

"I think it's stupid and degrading," replied Bill, who like many celebrities was shorter than one would expect.

"Well my partner here and I were the ones who created it."

"I don't care it's still stupid and degrading."

(More heated conversation that I simply can't recall that culminated with the following)

"Well you're an asshole."

"You're an asshole too"

"Tell you what Bill, maybe we should take this outside?"

"We are outside, douchebag."

Bill was right we were standing outside. At that point, I'm pretty sure John Shirley dragged me away.

"Come on Rich, let's go back to the bar and try some of that Woodford Reserve."

As we walked away, John, who was equally proud of our efforts, lobbed one more missive Maher's way...

"You're an asshole."

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Tales From Behind the One Way Mirror

A few weeks ago I found myself sitting in on a focus groups. Something I haven't done in a long, long while. Though I have written extensively about the practice. And as you can imagine, I'm not a fan.

Asking people to judge a commercial -- actually it's not a commercial, it's more like a wireframe of a commercial without the benefit of any craftsmanship -- is a faulty process that leads to faulty results.

It just does.

Ask the folks who were responsible for Apple's 1984 spot.

Or the team who worked on TV's seminal sitcom, SEINFELD.

They both tested miserably. But I'm not going to rehash old beefs with this evil necessity of modern day mass communications. Because one of last week's focus group produced what could be the laugh of the year.

You see, in the age of the pandemic, it's no longer possible to gather 6 or 7 regular blokes, stick them in a room, feed them wet tuna fish sandwiches, solicit their expert opinions on million dollar marketing propositions and send them home with a hundred bucks.

Now it's all done through the magic of technology, via laptops, iPads, and other internet-ready devices.

Which suits me fine. If I never have to sit on the dreaded other side of the mirror and pound down focus group lasagna ever again, I will go to meet my maker a happy fella.

So what made this focus group so memorable, other than it starting at the ungodly hour of 7 AM? Towards the end of the session, after the moderator had asked, "Is there anything you really, really HATE about this commercial?" for the umpteenth time, the subjects went silent. The moderator astutely picked up on their cues and sent them home for the day.

"Got it. Have a great weekend. And thank you."

And that's when all the focus groupies turned off their devices and vanished into the ether. Well, all except one.

He, meaning Chad, Tad, Brad or Qad, mistakenly left his iPhone on. And in his mad rush to the bathroom must have kicked the volume level up to 10. Treating a dozen stunned and well paid marketing executives to 35 seconds, make that 45 seconds because he was drinking coffee the whole time, or urinary hilarity.

It was the kind of moment we've seen memorialized as an internet meme or rebroadcast on local TV news station's as their levity ending piece of the day.

But there it was. IRL.

And after 30 plus years of doing these god awful focus groups, this one will always be the most memorable.

Thank you, Errant Pissing Guy, 29 from Hackensack, NJ, thank you.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Proof Positive

It's been said there are hundreds of ways to prove the Pythagorean Theory. For those of you who were not math geeks in high school, allow me to refresh your memory on this, the most basic tenet of Geometry. It's a topic that still fascinates, and it states, with regards to a right triangle:

a(squared) + b(squared) = c(squared)

The picture above is one of the more elegant and graphic ways to show that the hypotenuse (the line from Point A to point B), indeed is equal to the sum of the squares of the two other sides. But for an entire year, Ms. Ludwig, our gruff math teachers (gruff is a job qualification for teaching math) had us find new and creative ways to prove the theorum.

In retrospect it was an amazing example of how mathematics and logic and creativity can all manifest themselves in one mind bending exercise. I was pretty damn good at it.

It also goes a long way towards explaining my particular love of proving Trumpsters wrong. Dead wrong. Not with platitudes or name calling (though I do allow myself that indulgence) but with facts. 

For instance, if you've ever found yourself in a serious discussion about Precedent Shitgibbon's deficiencies, and there are many, you know the first and favored tactic of the Red Hat is to deflect. And one of their preferred deflections is, "Yeah, well Obummer added 10 trillion dollars to the US debt." 

Ok, slow down there Grand Wizard. The truth is President Obama added 8.58 trillion dollars to the debt. 

Do I like that? No, I do not. I'm not big on debt and make it a point to pay off all my credit cards before my wife and daughters send it ballooning towards the skies next month.

But it should be noted President Obama pulled us out of the country's worst recession. We were literally hanging by a thin fiscal thread. And by spending that $9 trillion (it always helps to concede a little to a Trumpster, it's actually a rhetorical trap) he lowered the unemployment level from 9.8% to 4.7% and produced 8 years worth of steady, but modest growth. 

Those numbers are indisputable.

By contrast, the US debt is now close to $27 trillion dollars. And Captain Ouchie Foot is responsible for $7 trillion worth of additional Red Ink. In just 3 and 1/2 years !!!!

Also, indisputable. And it tends to result in a lot of hemming and hawing by the Kool Aide drinking faithful.

Another favorite trope is that President Obama was weak. And started his presidency with a so-called "Apology Tour." I've heard this crap more often that Pythagoreas found himself staring at a right triangle. 

Not surprisingly, this too is another falsity, manufactured in the sweaty, integrity-free back office of Fox News. President Obama did not go on an "Apology Tour." What he did was take a sobering, thoughtful and introspective look at America's past. A past that does always merit the pitchfork and torch crowd yelling USA USA USA.

He did so to curry diplomatic favor and push negotiations in a more fruitful, less combative direction.

I would posit that the acknowledgement of our past mistakes is a sign of strength and confidence. Ignoring slavery, colonial adventurism, resource theft, lopsided foreign policy and profiteering from global militarism, does nobody any good and it impedes progress.

Furthermore, President Obama never apologized, he put those past misdeeds into context. It's how mature, nuanced and intelligent people act.  

Compare that to President Glibby McGlibbington:

The irony here, and the icing on my "proof", is that if Red Hats are so concerned about an American President appearing weak or deferential or in any way submissive, I would suggest they take another look at the disastrous Helsinki news conference video where the President of the United States of America took the world of Russia's President over the intel provided by our own CIA and FBI.

As if that weren't enough and the most cowardly cowering ever displayed by an American leader, let's talk about the unwillingness and inability to confront Vladimir Putin for putting cash bounties on the heads of US soldiers.

That's Fucking Weak!

Thursday, July 16, 2020


Editorial Note: I had written a different piece for today, but since I am somewhat gainfully employed in a period of time when nobody is, I thought better of posting it.  I let discretion and my love of expensive tomahawk steaks prevail and put the post on hold. In its place I am writing about my groin.

Several weeks ago, or it might have been several days -- this forced hermitting in my house has done a number on my circadian rhythms -- I wrote about a visit to my doctor. I have been having excruciating pain in my upper thigh muscles which I thought might have been caused by my excessive ass sitting.

The doctor prescribed steroids, ice and heat packs. Well, that did not alleviate the pain which left me in agony and made my walking look like that of a geriatric. Like a 45 year old man. So I did what I never do and got a second opinion. This time from my OSCAR insurance covered doctor who plies his wares for UCLA Healthcare.

His office is at the Fox Hills Mall in Culver City. The UCLA Healthcare facility is located across from the JC Penney and behind the Cinnabon.

It's a little odd having your medical issues tended to in the same building where kids are buying the new Jordan sneakers and moms are buying wire support bras.

I hate to sound snobby, but I prefer my out of pocket doctor in Century City. In the huge black medical center building appropriately located on Avenue of the Stars. In fact, I've run into several stars while entering and exiting my preferred medical edifice.

Once, while waiting for my valet-parked car to be returned I saw James Gandolfini. He was hunched over and disappointingly not as tall as I had hoped. I like my Northern New Jersey Mafioso Kingpins to look a little more kingly, like 6'3" or taller. Tony Soprano was more my height. And equally burly. Given enough tequila, I'm pretty sure I could've taken Tiny Tony down.

But I digress.

Turns out, according to my new Sports Medicine doctor, I did not have bursitis, as originally diagnosed.  After much torquing, twisting and otherwise contorting my hips and legs in ways they should not be contorted, the doc suggested I had pulled a groin muscle.

He showed my some graphic charts, explained the nature of the injury and why it could take up to several months to heal.

Meaning this will probably not be the last post on this topic. If football season ever returns I will never again scoff at a multi-millionaire dollar paid athlete for sitting on the sidelines with a similar injury. You'll never hear me scream at the TV again...

"Come on Edelman, it's just a groin pull, get back in the game and make the Tribe proud."

And though it happened months ago, the doctor correctly identified the source of the groin pulling.

He thinks, and I'm sure he's right, that it happened when I was deadlifting weights in my garage. Which, by the way, sounds a lot more manly than a case of bursitis.

The deadlift is the most appropriately named of all the lifting exercises. It's also the simplest. You put as much weight as you possibly can, for those with home gyms that means every plate you have, and you try and lift it.

It's a good bet I won't be doing these again.

In fact, unless you're training to lift a schoolbus off a child trapped under the wheel well, I don't know why anybody would.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Greetings, Infernal Revenue Service

If you're like me you found yourself writing out a check to our federal government today. It was the last day of the coronavirus inspired IRS extension.

If you're like me -- and god help you if you are -- you also appended the payment with some kind of appropriate commentary.

Made even more appropriate because we owe money to a government that turns around and hands that money out to megachurches, Fortune 5 00 companies and assnuggets like Kanye West, all of whom took advantage of Uncle Sam's PPP Feeding Trough for the Rich.

But what stings the most is that I owe Donnie's House of Whoring and Backscratching, more money than I've ever owed in my life. Because, and here's the kicker, 2019 was also the year I made the least amount of money I've made in the last 27 years in advertising. Ever since I was a young, up and coming 1993 copywriter, working for two of the industry's legends. Steve Hayden and David Lubars.

Steve liked me. Lubars, not so much.

Consequently, last year, I had to dip into my IRA savings. Thus, running up a substantial tax bill.

I don't like dipping into my savings. I like to log in to my Charles Schwab account and watch those numbers increase. I like to pull up the full screen chart and gaze at the line, climbing at a sharper and sharper angle.

You know like the number of Coronavirus cases. And now, the coronavirus deaths. There's nothing pleasing about those charts. Except the hope that #Maskholes throughout the country might finally realize the cesspool this regime has plunged us into.

But I'm not hopeful.
Or naive.

So now, what was mine, no longer is. That money is in the capable, tiny, vulgarian hands of Captain Fucknuckle, who will no doubt use it to buy new umbrellas, to replace the ones he failed to close.

Or pay for golf carts needed by Secret Service agents trailing him on one of his 8,974 golf outings.

Or, to reimburse DJT Jr. for expenses he incurred while scouring the Serenegetti and shooting groundhogs, or gerbils, or some other herbivorous wild game that poses no threat to the life and limb of that worthless silver spoon scumbag.

It makes my blood boil.

It also explains the purchase of my new mask.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Oh, oh, oh, it's magic

My wife and I are now both at that same delicate age, 44, when we are subjected to a ton of pharmaceutical advertising. Ads that once pimped Michelob Ultra, the beer for athletes, or Tinder, or even the Gap, have been replaced by commercials for Keytruda, Trylesta and Ozempic.

Ozempic is our favorite, because it features a song that mimics that old 70's pop hit Magic by Pilot.

Oh you know the spot:

Catchy, no?

If I'm not mistaken I think the fine makers of Ozempic, doctor's recommended choice for diabetes, obesity, arthritis, heart disease, cancer and dismemberment, dipped deep into their pool of Big Pharma money and actually got the band Pilot to come out of retirement and croon the new lyrics.

Listen again. The melodic harmonizing. The unmistakable hooks. Even the guitar riffs are the same as Pilot's signature 1974 sound. The sound that went on to launch such magical hits as....OK, so the negotiations with the band manager probably didn't last longer than 2 minutes.

OZEMPIC: "We'd like to use your band's song, MAGIC, in our next commercial."

PILOT: "Done."

OZEMPIC: "Any chance you guys could sing it for us?"

PILOT: "How about next Tuesday?"

It's been said that pharmaceutical advertising is where old copywriters go to finish out their careers. And while I've dipped my toe in that field, I've been fortunate enough to avoid a steady Monday through Friday, nine to five, diet of this stuff.

For starters, I wouldn't have the faintest idea how to pitch a spot like the Ozempic one to clients.

"Close your eyes. Picture a diverse group of youngish, middle aged people, people, going about their lives free from the debilitating effects of diabetes. They're playing miniature golf, exercising, and putting new 393 cubic inch engines into classic cars like the 1967 Dodge Coronet. And throughout this incredible montage we hear...


Worse than that is what happens after the client signs the estimate and sends you on your way to produce this 90 seconds of diabetic bliss.

Because if you know anything about advertising, TV or film production, you know it is a long and laborious process that moves from focus groups (where the song is played 178 times) to the shoot (where the song is played another 427 times) to the edit bay, (where some poor editor has to frame fuck this thing and the song is played 2,936 times) before it reaches your tv screen.

Those are the kind of sacrifices we have to make for art.

I won't labor this any longer, suffice to say, this where my career is going.

I can feel it in my arthritis-free bones. And while I bemoan my fate, I'll leave you with this, so that the earworm I have placed in your head can find its way down to your alimentary canal and make a quick egress.

You're welcome.

Monday, July 13, 2020

I want to speak to the manager

Some of you may recall my tale of customer dissatisfaction with the Omaha Steak Company. To recap, my daughter, very thoughtfully, purchased 4 juicy Rib Eye steaks from their online sales department and gifted it to me for Father's Day.

The "steaks" were not exactly steaks.

And were more akin to the a bite sized treat you might give your dog for fetching a ball or for not shitting on the new expensive rug you just bought from Restoration Hardware.

As I explained in a flattering post, the folks from Nebraska couldn't have been more accommodating. They understood my disappointment and immediately refunded my daughter the $135 she spent for four of these morsels. I offered to send the still wrapped "steaks" back, but they would have none of that.

Good on them for living up to the promise printed on the box: "100% Satisfaction. Guaranteed."

The other half of my Father's Day extravaganza came from my wife. She never knows what to get me as a gift. Mostly because I'm never wanting for anything. So I decided to make it easy and pointed her in the direction of Flaviar. A new online company that sends whiskey right to your doorstep. Sort of like Harry and David's Fruit of the Month club, only with high octane pain-go-bye-bye juice.

That did not turn out well. The first bottle they sent (still unopened) was called PiggyBack. I suspect the folks at Flaviar have a warehouse full of this stuff. And need to unload it.

The first gift carton also included three sampler bottles, about a shot and a half, just enough bourbon to make me feel a little less stressed about these shitty surreal times we live in. Well, it would be if it was actually drinkable. In fact, I'm not sure I wasn't actually drinking paint thinner. I tossed that shit in the garbage disposal. Though I will say the sink is now draining faster.

Then I went online to see what my wife had actually purchased. Then the email exchange started.

I heard back from Jason, my Flavor Concierge. Ooooo, I have a flavor concierge.

I asked for a refund. But Jason, my flavor concierge was not so willing to concierge me.

OK, Jason. We can do this the easy way. Or the hard way, which will be a lot more fun..

Jason, chose the easy way. Which was smart of him. 

I don't want you coming away from this post thinking I'm some kind of schnorer -- those of you in the Tribe will recognize that term. But as my email explained, I do expect to be treated fairly. 

And speaking of fair, now that my daughter and my wife have been refunded all the money they spent on this past Father's Day I think it's only fair we do it over again.