Monday, January 31, 2011

Tagline Hell

This mustachieod man is Frederick Nietszche, father of modern day nihilism. I bring you this famous German philosopher because today I am retiring the old Roundseventeen tagline, "at the corner of west coast optimism and Bronx born nihilism."

Those carefully chosen 11 words have served me well for the past year and a half.

Actually I can't believe I've had the same tagline for that long. I'm not a big fan of taglines even though they are considered the holy grail of advertising. I know I've written at least 10,000 of them over the course of my career. And don't feel particularly attached to any of them.

In perhaps one of my most unwise career moves, I once suggested to our client, ABC, that we have a different tagline everyday.

I loved the idea of challenging ourselves to come up with something worthy every 24 hours. I also loved how it pointed out the disposable nature of taglines. If memory serves, Network Chairman Bob Igor and President Jamie Tarses looked at me as if I were from another planet.

I got used to that look.

So today we fly under a new banner. One that hopefully answers the question asked by millions... ok thousands... alright, my neighbor wanted to know, "how did you come up with the name for your blog?"

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Top of the Line

Recognize this?
It's a double-vented, quad-chambered chestnut roaster. From Furconi. It's Italian.

Maybe you saw it:

Of course it was just a prop. It doesn't roast chestnuts. Or anything else for that matter. It does nothing. Nothing but take up space at my house.

Anybody want one?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Two Thumbs Up

Maybe you were one of the three plus million people who saw the youtube video of the woman walking through the Berkshire Town Plaza, texting on her phone and face-planting herself into a mall fountain.

If you weren't, have no fear, I will be embedding the video for your viewing pleasure just as soon as I can get this type past this huge diagram of the bones and ligaments in the human hand

In the latest development, it turns out the woman has four previous felony convictions for identity theft. So while you might be tempted to have sympathy for her, consider the victims of her crimes who had to spend endless hours and countless energy to get their financial house back in order.

Ah, we have cleared the diagram and I can paste in the said video:

While I'll grant you the security guard and his friend watching this mishap might be enjoying her misfortune a little too much, I'd also posit that she had it coming to her.

Years ago when I was studying karate, we were taught the first rule of self defense is environmental awareness. This woman clearly has none.

But she is not alone. Everyday, I see women (and men) texting on their smartphones while driving --ok, driving is a generous descriptor, inching-- their way to work on the 405.

I've never been a big texter and simply don't understand why you'd use a device designed for talking to another person to text another person.

Why not use the speakerphone or the Bluetooth and keep your hands free? You know for the more important things, like putting on your makeup.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Droll Tide

Dear Governor Bentley,

It is with a heavy heart that I write to you today. As a leader of Congregation Temple Isaiah in Culver City, California I feel it is my obligation to express grave disappointment over your recent remarks at the gubernatorial inauguration. In which you stated:

“so anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I’m telling you, you’re not brother and you’re not my sister.”

I’m sorry Governor, in addition to not being your brother or your sister, we will sadly not be your visiting guests as well. You see, our Chavurah group – the Wandering Jews (Christ-deniers, in your parlance)– had scheduled a month-long visit to the Heart of Dixie at the beginning of summer break.

We have since canceled this excursion, that would no doubt have brought vital tourist dollars from our exceedingly affluent members.

Sadly, we will not be going to Bessemer, Alabama to see Adolf Hitler’s authentic Groma typewriter. The same typewriter that so proudly got the trains running on time.

Nor will we be stopping in Daphne, Alabama to see the magnificent 12-foot tall football quarterback statue constructed from drainage pipes, discarded pickle buckets and tall-boy cans of Bud Light.

You’ll have to tell the manager of the Northport McDonalds that we will also not be stopping at his establishment for nourishment and the prized opportunity to see the bust of former President Reagan (a staunch supporter of Israel) who once ate a Big Mac right there in the Northwood Shopping Center.

And of course, what trip to Alabama would be complete without a stop in Birmingham to see the Racist Hell Hounds Sculpture. This would have made a powerful impact on the children and taught them a vital lesson in animal husbandry, as well as tolerance. An attribute you seem to be so sorely lacking.

We were looking forward to a deep, culturally-enriching experience, as would anybody visiting the Yellowhammer State. Perhaps Hashem will still deliver on that promise. As we make our way east on Interstate 20 and stop just short of the Sumter Welcome Center and explore the great state of Mississippi.

In fact Mississippi Governor Barbour has already invited the congregation to Oxford, MS and promised a 10% discount on admission to see the World’s Largest Cedar Bucket. And you know how we Jews feel about getting discounts.

Best regards,

Monday, January 24, 2011

Vice Advice

Scour my house today and you won't find a single Diet Pepsi or Diet Coke. Look in my recycle bin and you won't find any discarded cans either.

This was not always the case. Thanks to an unholy addiction, it wasn't that long ago that our house was literally swimming in the fructose-flavored chemical water.

While I had successfully migrated from carbohydrate-heavy food to leaner, cleaner proteins, including an inordinate amount of salmon (much to my wife's dismay I could eat salmon, morning, day and night. I'm like a Grizzly Bear, only with more body hair), I could never kick the diet soda habit.

That is until I went completely cold turkey and replaced all that Diet Pepsi with sparkling water from Calistoga.

Then about a month ago, while hunting down an Ove Glove for my wife at Bed, Bath & Beyond, I discovered the Soda Stream. An inventive little machine that allows me to make my own carbonated water.

Now I'm not about to join the ranks of those crazy survivalists who insist on canning their own tomatoes or vacuum freezing their own meats in anticipation of the End Days. Frankly, if the Rapture or Nuclear Armageddon were to visit us, I'd prefer to take the dirt nap with the unfortunate billions than to fight off the cockroaches for scraps of sustenance. And live with no NFL package. But I will admit to a certain sense of self satisfaction that comes along with producing foodstuffs with my own bare hands.

Recently, I discovered why my body craves massive amounts of carbonated beverages.

If you ever gulped soda, or the infinitely healthier soda water, too fast, you know that it can cause a slight tingle. It's not exactly painful, in the normal sense of the word, but it is enough to trigger the brain to release pain-soothing dopamine. Mmmm, dopamine.

This can produce mild temporary euphoria. And let's face it, you can't argue with euphoria.

That leaves me with few -- if any -- vices left in my life: I still like to knock back a few fingers worth of Kentucky bourbon on occasion. And I write annoying advertising commercials for a living.

As long I do the latter, I'm not giving up the former.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Chain, chain, chains

Yesterday my wife told me the harrowing tale our friends experienced on a Christmas trip to Mammoth Mountain. We used to venture there years ago but have recently found ski trips to be more trouble than they are worth. There's the shlepping. There's the overpriced lift tickets. And there's the Persians.

If you've ever been to Mammoth at the end of December you know about the Persians. They travel in packs of thousands. Speak in a higher decibel range than normal people. And they have no sense of personal space, which is a bit of a necessity when you're spending hours in lift lines or in crowded cafeterias. This knock against Persians doesn't come from me, it comes directly from the mouth of my Tehran-born friend Saam.

But enough about Persians, let's retreat to safer ethnic ground and talk about Jews. More specifically our friends who fought the weather and braved the trip up Route 395. Turns out the snow got so bad that they had to pull the 4-wheel drive Lexus GX 470 over and put on the tire chains.

More accurately, and more troubling, he had to pay someone to put on the tire chains. Adding more credence to the reputation of the Jewish man who is mechanically declined, unable and unwilling to perform any manual labor that might get dirt under his fingernails. As I sit here in my West Los Angeles home and drink coffee made from my Braun Gourmet espresso maker, I want to proudly claim I am not one of those Nancy-boy Jews.

It wasn't easy at first, but I persevered and taught myself the proper method to apply the chains. I learned the proper way to drape the chains over the tires, the important half roll of the wheel and the trick of turning the steering wheel to accommodate the inside fasteners.

I've gotten so adept at putting on tire chains that one time an older Japanese couple approached me and asked if I would help them. After several meaningless hand gestures to the English-challenged old man, I simply took over and put the chains on his Toyota. This was followed by much smiling. And much bowing.

While I have mastered the art of tire chain application, I will admit that removing the chains can prove to be quite difficult.

I usually pull over and pay someone to do that.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

That's My Sign

On the topic of Astrology, it is much easier to accept the well-reasoned wisdom of the late Cornell Professor and PhD, renowned astronomer Carl Sagan than it is of some tea-leaf reading Gypsy with a G.E.D. and a colorful collection of slow-burning aromatic candles.

(For those of you short on time you can skip to 3:45 on the video.)

Until recently, I could just never muster up the belief in the Zodiac, not only because of the reasons stated by Mr. Sagan, but because my horoscope had always been so monumentally wrong. Time and time again.

But last week that all changed.

I found out, as did the world, that due to planetary wobbling, certain shifts were needed to correct the alignment of the stars and make way for a 13th sign.

This, it turns out, has made all the difference. Not only have I've gone from being a Pisces to an Aquarius. I have crossed the Rubicon and gone from being a disbeliever to a fervent believer.

Take today's horoscope for instance. Under my old sign Pisces, it reads: Today will be an astounding day filled with joy, merriment and unfathomable and flattering attention from the opposite sex.

Yeah right.

Here's my new horoscope with my properly aligned zodiac sign: You are a bald, talentless hack who despite eating less carbohydrates and running three miles a day will never lose any weight.

Suck it, Carl.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Modest Type O+ Proposal

Last week, following the shooting tragedy in Arizona, some rather unfair charges were leveled at Sarah Palin, and other Republicans, who have engaged in heated political rhetoric. Those leveling the charges seem more than willing to give a pass to Democrats who engage in similar tactics, including the President who once said, "If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun."

To refudiate these charges (malaprop intended), Ms. Palin accused those in the media of "blood libel." I have no intention of defending or ridiculing Sarah Palin. That ground has been covered by pundits on the right and the left.

Frankly, like many others, I wish this intellectual lightweight would vanish from the political landscape. I cannot believe there are some who actually believe she is fit for the office of President. She's not fit for night time television game shows. I know I could beat her at Wheel of Fortune and fairly confident I could take her down in Jeopardy. Unless the categories that came up were Caribou Stalking, Caribou Hunting, Caribou Shooting, Caribou Skinning, Caribou Cooking and Hair Bumps.

But I would like to address the less-talked-about topic of Blood Libel.

Believed to have been started during the First Crusade, Blood Libel is another canard, among many, that contends Jews ritually murder non-Jewish children and collect their blood. The blood is then placed on the table at the Passover Feast and used for dipping, not unlike a salsa, for Jewish Matzo.

Wacky, right?

I've been to countless Seders, and hosted many more, and witnessed some pretty unsavory foods on the table, like charoseths, karpas and zeroa, but not once have I ever seen my wife, or my aunt, or my grandmother ever put out a bowl of gentile blood (we don't even own a proper gravy boat.)

But maybe that's exactly what we should be doing.

The old standby joke about matzo is that it tastes worse than the cardboard box it came in. The fact that the Matzo and the box bear more than a slight resemblance doesn't help the matter. Perhaps some fresh goyish blood would.

We have three months before Passover, the question is which little children in the neighborhood should we include in our ritual slaughter? There's the two little boys that live next door to us. But my teenage daughters often babysit for them. And they make decent money at it. It probably wouldn't be wise, or very Jewish, to cut off that revenue stream.

Then there's the neighbor who just had a little baby girl. She's only 6 months old. And she's really adorable. Her blood would make a tasty addition to our holiday feast. But it could be hard to get to her. Her mother is always around. And she doesn't walk or crawl or ride a bike or even a skateboard...wait a minute.

There's that obnoxious, portly 11-year old boy from up the street. I don't know his name, but I think it should be Portlee. He's constantly skateboarding in front of my house. He's always falling on his fat ass as he tries to 'get air' off the curb. It's so damn noisy. Portlee could practice that trick for the next 1000 years and I guarantee he will never utter the phrase, "nailed it" with any veracity.

If we were to slay Portlee, drain his blood and serve it at our next Seder, the world would actually be a better place. Let's face it, chances are he would have graduated from a skateboard to a jetski and turned into a beer-guzzling, hell-raising river rat. Lord knows we don't need more of that. More importantly, Portlee will have contributed his body to the furtherance of an ancient and honored Jewish tradition that celebrates the liberation from bondage.

Because no man, no woman and no child should live under the yoke of slavery.
Particularly the children.
We need their blood.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Shark Sighting

Thanks to Don Draper and the good folks at A&E, admen (and adwomen) are no longer at the top of the list of most disliked professionals. We've been supplanted by dentists, politicians and perpetually-late cable TV repairmen.

Also gaining a lot of momentum, divorce lawyers.

In fact, having spoken with a few friends who have been through the process, I'm surprised these attorneys do not don bulletproof kevlar vests. Which makes it all the more shocking that this particular barrister would choose to advertise his profession on the back of his $111,000 ZR1 Corvette.

Perhaps the driver of this exquisite sports car is not in any mortal danger, but wouldn't that vanity plate provide ample temptation to the newly single man (now separated from his wife and his money) to walk by the length of the vehicle with a sharp key or ballpoint pen perilously projecting from his pocket?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The shame of fame

I suppose it's the price to be paid for living in Southern California, but my daughters seem to be obsessed with fame. Of course it doesn't help that they actually go to the same private school attended by some of Hollywood's A-list families.

Years ago I had the displeasure of sitting through a school production of Anything Goes.
Directly behind me were Demi Moore and Ashton Kutsher. They were rude and obnoxious, as if their daughter, Eagle or Raindrop or Chickweed, were the only kid in the play.

Thankfully, they transferred out of the school, presumably to be in the company of other over-indulged celebrities. Good riddance.

We have a new AA++ celebrity at school this year, whose name I dare not speak but who's quite handy with a soccer ball. I have it on good intel that he, and his celebrity wife, are actually quite down to earth and pleasant to be around.

I suppose I might have come to California in search of a little fame, but I abandoned that a long, long time ago. It is, as many discover, a false dream. And truth be told I'd much rather have dignity than fame.

The Candyman must be turning in his grave knowing his likeness had been turned into a cartoonish, nappy-headed salami. (Can I say nappy-headed? Is that politically incorrect? Apologies in advance if I have delved into any political incorrectness.)

The greater offense belongs to the Roll N' Rye Deli who have besmirched the image of the one-eyed Rat Packer to shamelessly hawk fatty, well-cured meat.

Thankfully, I will never have to worry about anyone ordering a Salami Davis Jr. on Rye with a side of SiegelSlaw.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Here We Go

Weeks ago I ragged on a Red Lobster commercial I had seen on the air. I had mistakenly thought it was the work of the agency, Grey in NY. It wasn't.

I was misinformed. But so was an irate reader of my commentary who claimed it wasn't a good idea for me, as a freelancer, to quote "shit" on other people's work. I didn't dignify the anonymous commentator then, but I will now.

First of all, I don't poop on other's people work. As Lee Clow once stated, 95% of advertising is total crap. In my mind, that total crap is fair game. If that anonymous commentator would like stand in defense of that 95% of crap, well it says more about him, or her, than it does about me.

Secondly, the Red Lobster spot in question hardly qualifies as "work." In reality, it's s creative brief put on film. Nothing more than food porn backed by a cloyingly happy voiceover.

Let that be the last word on Red Lobster.

Which brings us to the current Bud Light campaign, which is not in and of itself, bad. I actually like a couple of the individual spots. In particular, the plane survivors who willfully ignore the woman who has found the radio transmitter in favor of the passenger who has located a beer cart full of cold Bud Lights.

What I take issue with is the force feeding of the contrived catchphrase, "Here We Go."

I know, because I've sat in excruciating meetings with these people, that a team at Anheuser Busch headquarters is convinced that phrase will be turned into marketing gold. They've already got novelty manufacturers in Shanghai ready to push the start button on the talking Here We Go Bud Light Bobbleheads.

Maybe they'll succeed. But I hope they don't. Because I hate catchphrases.

Siegel, out.

Monday, January 10, 2011


One of the beautiful things about Facebook is how it reconnects people who haven't been connected in a long, long time. Or for that matter, ever connected.

Recently, my first cousin Robert, who lives in Wales, reached out to me from across the pond. As strange as it may sound, I had never met or even known about Robert for my entire life. My mum (that's the ways Scots refer to their mothers) never spoke much about her family or life in the motherland. I suspect it made her very homesick.

After a few email exchanges with Robert it has become clear to me that the sense of humor I once thought I had inherited from the Jewish side of the family, can also be traced to my very British lineage. Robert, like most Scots, has an incredibly sharp, dry wit.

Anyway, while on the topic of genetics, take a look at this photo my cousin had in his possession. The stunning woman on the left was me mum. The handsome tuxedoed man on the right with the full head of hair, was my dad.

I may be a little biased, but they strike me as a classically beautiful couple. I don't know what happened during the fertilization process, but sadly I was not on the receiving end of any those finely-formed chromosomes.

The frumpy, bald Jew in the middle was Abe Rothman, my great grandfather.
Looks like I got all of his genes.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Mmmm, porcine

Over the Christmas break, we loaded up the minivan and headed north on the 101.

We stopped in Santa Cruz for a night at the boardwalk and discovered that, even when surrounded by the beautiful redwoods of Big Sur and the pristine waters of Northern California, carny people are carny people.

Not making any judgments here. After all there's something charming about knocking down milk bottles with a softball and winning a giant stuffed bear that smells of salt air, stale cigarettes and Early Times Bourbon.

We followed Santa Cruz up with a journey to Petaluma to visit my sister in law.

And in between we stopped off in one of my favorite cities, San Francisco. My daughters love SF as well. But not for the same reasons. They love the opportunity to visit restaurants and eateries they've seen on the Food Network.

While scouring the Mission District (and looking for the home in the opening credits of Full House) we stopped for lunch at the Tartine Bakery. The line to get in was half way down the block (which put me in a sour way) it was self serve (strike two) and there was no place to sit (where's Denny's?). But I maintained my composure and we waited it out. And boy was it worth it. (I hate when my wife is right.) Truth is, I'm pretty sure I will go to my grave never tasting a sandwich that will top the spicy turkey pesto panini at Tartine's.

Before we left the city we walked through the Ferry building in the Embarcadero. There we sampled cheese, bread and olive oil from the overpriced boutiques set up to fleece tourists. It's also where I spotted Boccalone, home of the tasty salted pig parts.

What an odd handle for an eatery, I thought. Then I remembered the early days of my advertising career, when I would present work to the Creative Director and he would reject the idea saying, "It's good, but it's a little too on the nose."

I never really understood what that meant.

Now I do. And I think it might apply to Boccalone, Tasty Salted Pig Parts.
It's a little too on the nose.
Or in this case, snout.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

To the rectory

Though thoroughly agnostic and born of an Episcopalian mother from the working town of Paisley, Scotland, I identify myself as a Jew. Always have, always will. I don't keep Kosher. I don't study the Torah. And I couldn't begin to tell you the difference between the Tanakh and the Talmud. Nevertheless, as my friend Ellen puts it, I have this undeniable strong sense of Jewishness.

Which makes it all the more ironic that my wife and I are attempting to send our daughters to Saint Monica's Catholic High School. Oh yes, you read that right.

Plaid skirts. Ornery nuns. And crucifixes on any wall that can support a nail.

Why? You may ask.

The numbers tell the story. I can no longer afford to send my girls to private school where the tuition is simply prohibitive. And we tried one year at a public high school, where after 4 months, some of the teachers still don't know my daughter's name. And Catholic school offers a happy-but-guilt ridden middle ground.

Not to mention that Saint Monica is an affordable college prep campus and that 99% of all graduates go on to a 4 year college. 99%! Fewer Catholics get into heaven.

At the open house several weeks ago, my wife and I sat in a large auditorium to listen to the Monsignor and get a feel for the school. At one point in the presentation, I needed to use the bathroom. I was led to a restroom in the back, where I spotted the silvery vending machine pictured above.

Odd, I thought. As I left the bathroom I asked the Vice Principal why there was a condom machine in the men's room? I may be new to Catholicism but my understanding was that condom use was not permitted, even in these more enlightened times.

The Vice Principal summoned the Monsignor, who took me by the shoulder and literally said, "How can I be of assistance, brother?" He led me to the machine in question, chuckled and whispered, "This is a unisex bathroom, brother. This machine does not dispense condoms. It dispenses feminine napkins." I felt relieved. And I liked being called brother.

And with that, we exited the bathroom, his arm wrapped around me, laughing, not the way two middle aged men should be exiting any bathroom.

This Catholic School thing could work out swimmingly. My daughters will get a great education. And the whole experience will provide me with years worth of comedic mileage.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to read up on "plenary indulgences."

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Glove that says Love

My wife is easily pleased. She'd have to be, since she married me. (See how I connect with my readers by writing exactly what they're thinking as they're thinking it?)

A month ago, it was Chanukkah or Chanucha or Hanukka, any spelling -- given the proper amount of phlegmy sounds-- will do.

Mostly we concentrate on giving gifts to our two lovely, if not spoiled, daughters. Deb and I lead modest lives and don't find ourselves wanting for much. But in the spirit of the season we do engage in some marginal gift exchanging.

To make a boring story shorter, on the 7th night of the Jewish Festival of Lights, I gave my wife the magical Kevlar-coated Ove' Glove. And just as I suspected, she was thrilled. Actually, she was beyond thrilled. She was ecstatic. How was I to know that a simple machine-washable oven mitt could produce such joy.

I don't think I'd ever seen her that happy. Well, that is until the 8th night of Hannukah, when I completed the matching set and gave her a second Ove' Glove.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Drizzle Alert 2011

The first post of the New Year and he's talking about the weather. That can't be a good sign, can it?

But the truth is, lots of people are talking about the weather. The blizzard in NY, the rain in LA or the 20 feet of snow in Mammoth Lakes. (No one seems to be talking about the ridiculous $92 lift tickets at Mammoth Mountain however. I'm sure I'll get around to raging about that in the near future.)

In any case, we just concluded one of our rainiest Decembers on record. I believe we topped 8 inches. I'm sure this brings a snicker to friends up in Seattle, where it rains 8 inches between the brewing of the 2nd and 3rd pot of coffee. Nevertheless, it's the Southern California equivalent of a monsoon.

Just ask the man pictured above.

While patiently waiting for the Number 5 bus to Culver City, he found shelter under the world's largest umbrella, complete with a convenient picnic table stand. Had the wind been cooperative, I suspect he could have caught a good updraft and Mary Poppin'ed himself straight through to the Baldwin Hills.