Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Let's go glamping


Right now I am heading out the door to A16 to purchase a new solar shower and a self-inflating, luxury air mattress in preparation of our upcoming camping trip. It's rather amazing that I actually look forward to camping and sleeping under the stars, particularly after my first disastrous 'wilderness' experience.

I was 12-years old and we had just moved from the comfortable Semitic confines of Flushing, NY to the unfamiliar, uncomfortable suburbia of Suffern, NY, where the average resident had never heard of, much less eaten, a bagel. To acclimate us to our new home, my father enrolled me in the local Boy Scouts, Troop 25, led by Scoutmaster Charley Jones, a hard-charging, red-nosed, NYC Detective who was long on discipline and short on anything else.

No sooner had I been fitted with my neo-military uniform and earned my first merit badge in Chess, did I learn Charley had scheduled the annual Klondike Camping Festival. In the middle of January.

On a patch of land off Route 59 that was owned by a local church and has now been paved over for a Walmart, 30 of us gathered in temperatures that hovered in the high teens and snow that came up above our knees. The 30 included 27 boys and three grown men who cherished the opportunity to get away from their wives and re-acquaint themselves with an old buddy, Jack Daniels.

I was sent to this arctic wasteland with the barest of essentials, including my father's old Army issue sleeping bag. He was stationed in Georgia, where the humidity and the temperature, rarely drop below 90. Subsequently the sleeping bag, and I hesitate to call it that, was not the paragon of insulation. It wasn't filled with down or feathers. In fact, it was constructed during the war so I'm pretty sure the Army filled it with lint collected from the barracks laundry facilities.

I'm not sure I slept a wink that entire weekend. Not because the paper thin sleeping bag wasn't comfortable. It wasn't. But because it's hard to drift off to sleepy land with the constant chattering of your own teeth. Perhaps that's why I'm such a fan of shows like Survivorman or Dual Survival. Had I known then what I know now, I would have grabbed some live pine boughs and needles and created a pad to preserve body heat. Or better yet, I would have swiped a pint of bourbon from Charley's backpack and gone to sleep the way a real camper does, drunk.

I guess it was all part of my dad's plan. He believed adversity built character. And there's probably some truth to that. But sometimes character is overrated. Besides, I have daughters. And we're headed up to Independence, CA where the high Sierra sun bakes the temperature well into three digits.

Maybe A16 has a camping air conditioner?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Itchy & Scratchy


This week marks an anniversary. Seven years ago I was gainfully employed as a Group Creative Director at Y&R in Irvine, California. The job had many ups and downs. Good people, good accounts, good autonomy, good pay, good benefits, bad commute.

Very bad commute.

I could have been going to work in a helicopter and that commute still would have sucked.

I used to tell my wife I was one Sig Alert away from going on an AK47 rampage. When the precious moments of your children's lives are flitting away, the last place you want to be is on the 405, stuck in the number 2 lane because some cretin from Fountain Valley doesn't understand the Low Fuel Gauge Alarm.

So I quit. And became a freelancer. And I have loved every minute of it.

In fact 7 years in this position is actually the longest I've ever stayed at one job. The shortest I ever stayed was at TGIF. This was a long time ago. I was hired as a short order cook, but the first day I showed up, I was handed a clipboard and a pencil and told to go in the 110 degree attic and take inventory. The second day I was handed a clipboard, a pencil and a ski parka and told to go in the freezer and take inventory. The third day, I ended up in the walk in cooler and proceeded to drink half a case of Heineken over the course of 6 hours.

I wasn't back for a fourth day.

I bring all this up because within the last month there has been a flurry of staff employment activity. No less than 4 agencies have talked to me, some in vague overtones, about the possibility of signing up for a regular paycheck. In other words, working for The Man.

Naturally I have mixed feelings about all this. I love the freedom and flexibility of my current job, but I do miss the opportunity to actually produce work and have some kind of influence of a brand's direction. One thing is for sure, if we do get to the negotiation stages, I'm going to ask for a nice window office and primo dental coverage.

Oh, and a helicopter.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Pretty Boys


Say what you will about the powers that be in Iran, but I love them. Oh sure they're Anti-Semitic, misogynistic and downright Neanderthal, but they are a constant source of amusement.

Last week the regime established their own Tonsorial Taliban and declared Holy Jihad on Western or 'decadent' haircuts. No faux-hawks, no spikes, no gel, no hint of any influence from the infidel follicles that  pollute the minds of the kaffir.

And what  would  an Iranian edict be without a slick, visual neo-Orwellian presentation that details the acceptable do's in the eyes of the Moral Police. Apparently the Pompadour and the early CHIPS Erik Estrada look are all the rage. Now you don't have to wait for VH1 to do one of their 80's retro weekends. You can just hop on a flight and head to Tehran.

You might want book your flight early as next month, according to ABC News, is also the Modesty and Veil Festival. I know you don't want to miss that. I wonder what the 2012 burqa will have in store for us.

Years ago, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took the podium at the United Nations. When he wasn't denying the Holocaust or calling for the annihilation of Israel, he declared, with a straight face, that there were no homosexuals in Iran. Judging from the ill-fitted polyester sport coats and the primitive hairstyles,  he may have been right.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

We have a winner

The results are in.

I apologize for the delay in announcing the results from last week's new Tagline poll, but due to the incredibly heavy volume and some possible voter fraud from our readers in the Ukraine, the tallying process took longer than expected.

As you might recall, last week we surpassed 50,000 hits. And to celebrate we have decided to replace the old tagline "Work in advertising long enough and 17 rounds of revisions seems like a cakewalk." In hindsight, I've always found that line to be too pedantic. And quite frankly, hypocritical as I am always telling clients not to spoon feed and to give viewers/readers/consumers more credit in the intelligence department.

Without further ado:

Roundseventeen. No shirt, no shoes, no snark....................3,892,652

Roundseventeen. Irrelevant and built to stay that way..........2,764,521

Roundseventeen. Now with 23% more cynicism..................5,178,945

Roundseventeen. (submit your own tagline here).............................1

There was only one write in vote that simply read "Blow it out your ass Siegel, no one gives a crap about your silly blog."

For personal reasons, I'm going to disqualify that. 
Besides, the important thing here is that we have a winner. 

Now I know the more astute of you will be saying, "wait a minute, wait a minute, over 10 million votes were cast on a blog celebrating a mere 50,000 hits? Something seems fishy here." Indeed it does. And that's just the kind of skepticism and critical thinking this blog is all about. 

And for that I have amended the new amended tagline.




Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Allah Not So Akbar


The news from the Middle East is not pretty these days. Actually, I'm not sure it ever is.

Moammar Khaddaffi (today's random spelling) continues his assault on fellow Libyans, the people he claims to love with all his heart. Violence continues in Yemen. And Syrian refugees are massing on the Turkish border seeking sanctuary from invading tanks, not Israeli tanks, Syrian tanks bent on killing other Syrians.

Thanks to technology and embedded reporters, we can see all this on a daily basis.

What you don't see however is even more startling.

You don't see Muslims taking to the streets demanding an end to to the bloodshed.
You don't see Muslim protestors, on the safe shores of the US or Britain, foaming at the mouth to stop the violence.
You don't even see Facebook pages being organized to raise awareness of this escalating turmoil.

Oh and one more thing, you don't see Jews parading through the streets of Tel Aviv, NY or London celebrating the deaths of innocent people. That would be terrible right? An awfully misguided case of schadenfrude.

That didn't stop the Palestinian presses from containing their joy about a recent gas explosion that killed 4 Israelis in Netanya last week.

Apparently nothing moves the Arab masses like the spilling of Jewish blood.
That, or the drawing of a Mohammed cartoon.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

FunbagGate


Last week I recalled the story of my first and only encounter with Jay Chiat. But sometimes when old synapses are reconnected, they spark off recollections that had long since been forgotten. This is one of those moments.

Turns out that no sooner had I started my career at Chiat/Day -- always a technological pioneer -- that the folks in the IT department had begun installing QuickTime mail. This was before email, before the Internet, before Facebook and before Twitter.

In essence, it was a huge bulletin board that allowed for instantaneous and immediate exchange of electronic information. It was a new toy. And a pleasant distraction from the drudgery of makings ads. Of course, like most things that are fast and fun, it was also dangerous.

One morning, I received a QuickTime mail from my buddy Frank Krimmel in the NY. office. He had figured how to upload pictures onto the system. This was not as simple as clicking an attach button. This required writing code, an advanced knowledge of COBALT and the ability to confibulate flik flaks. OK maybe not, but Frank knew how to put pictures in QT mails, I didn't.

One fine morning he sent me a picture of an obscenely-endowed woman in a bikini. Naturally I wasn't about to let all that effort go unrewarded, so I shot back the picture with a funny caption. Something that included the word, "Funbags."

Funny, right? Except in my absent-minded rush to secure a laugh I accidentally forwarded the message to the company-wide directory. That included the man with his name on the front door.

Minutes later I got a call from Sharon, Jay's executive assistant. Oooooh, I wondered, three months into my career at Chiat/Day and I was already being summoned to the big guy's office. Maybe Jay had seen my Nissan tent sale ad? Or that killer direct mail piece I had written for Home Savings Bank? Maybe I was being fast-tracked?

But that was not to be. Instead I received the tongue lashing of a lifetime. And I was put on double double probation. If memory serves, I even had to sign a paper promising that I would never ever write the word FUNBAGS on any piece of communication.

And I have kept that promise.
Until today.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Slap-Happy Father's day


Seems appropriate that the day after Father's Day I do a posting about my two beautiful daughters. Truth is, I probably don't write about them enough. So today I'd like to share the pride of my handiwork. Of course, if you're familiar with my in-vitro fertilization/turkey baster stories, you know when I say handiwork I am, in one case, speaking literally.

I'd like you to pay particular attention to the pearly whites pictured above.

That's about half a BMW M3 Series worth of orthodontia you're looking at. Keep in mind that my wife and I both have relatively healthy, straight teeth and no history of corrective dental work. Which made it all the more surprising when we were told that both girls would have to slap on the face grill.

As of last week that's all in the past.  The pliers have been put away and the discarded braces have already been sent back to the recycling center where they have been re-contorted into chicken wire.

Come September, both my beautiful girls will enter St. Monica's Catholic High School where they will no doubt draw the attention of several geeky high school boys. Not only because of their award winning smiles but also because some of these lunkheads might be under the mistaken belief that my novel little Jewish girls may not be as 'straight-laced' as the resident Catholic girls.

And I'm here to tell you, they will.

In fact, next week I'm planning to enroll at a local gym to either start training in Krav Maga or some straight up Boxing. So that when these boys come a knocking at my front door, I'll be prepared.

I have no intention of cleaning some 17-year old's clock.
I just want to know that I can.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Hey 1/2 asshole


Last week I had the opportunity to visit my local Home Depot. What sporting goods stores were to my youth, Home Depot has become in the home ownership period of my life.

There's nothing I enjoy more than strolling the aisles with my oversized shopping cart and imagining what kind of fixer-upper projects I'll tackle next.

Pop a third story on the house, let's see I'll need some two-by-fours, a nail gun and some roofing material, I think that's aisle 5. Or maybe I'll excavate below the foundation and put in a subterranean man cave, I'll need to rent a back hoe, grab some cement mix and pickup some sub-flooring.

Of course those are just my Bob Villa pipe dreams.

I never follow through with any of that because I simply don't possess the know-how. Nor the gentile gene that seems to make that possible. Though my father single-handedly built a Finnish Redwood sauna in his master bathroom. I, on the other hand, have a hard enough time hanging a picture in the family room.

"Aren't you going to measure that before you start banging holes in the wall?"


"Even if I did measure it, I wouldn't know what I was measuring. Hold your finger right here."


That's not to suggest I'm completely useless around the house.

I can, for instance, replace outdoor lighting fixtures. That's how I found myself at Home Depot asking Rudy, the 19-year old slacker in the orange vest where I could find electrical caps.

Rudy grunted.

Seemingly upset that he had to remove one of his earbuds and that I had interrupted his enjoyment of My Morning Vampire Jacket or Butt Funnel or whatever it is kids listen to these days.

He grunted and he pointed. And before I could query him for more specific information he was gone. It was probably time for his union-mandated mid-morning pre-lunch break. After all he had been working so hard.

In years past, I might not have left Rudy off the hook so easily.

But recently it dawned on me, people like Rudy, people who litter, people who don't understand the concept of customer service, brusk waiters, lazy account executives, half-assers in general, are their own worst enemy. And no righting of the ship on my part is going to change that.

So I don't bother anymore.
I don't stop to lecture.
I don't try to make anything a teaching moment.
I don't put my neck on the line anymore.

"Hey Mr. Heavily Tattoed Gang Member with a Glock tucked in your waistband, you shouldn't throw your trash on the sidewalk like that."


I simply walk away, knowing that half-assed people get half-assed jobs and go on to lead half-assed lives.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

That's Cold


Recently, I was hired to do a freelance gig for a huge multi-billion beverage company that makes a habit of using celebrities in their advertising. I'm not particularly a fan of the celebrity approach as it seems forced and contrived.

I certainly have no intention of using a deodorant or a salad dressing just because Lady Gaga or Justin Timberlake do. But maybe that's just me. Americans are notoriously dumb and easily misguided, witness the recent Sarah Palin/Paul Revere dust up.

In any case, I'm a mercenary now so I went about the business of selecting interesting celebrities and writing the kind of smart, witty scripts that I'd like to see on TV. Naturally, they all died a quick and semi-painless death. 

Probably because focus groups tell us people want this kind of tripe...


It's Ice Cube facing off against an ice cold Coors Light to see who's colder.

I would have loved to be a fly on the wall in that corporate marketing meeting when a bunch of lily-white, khaki pants wearing execs were high-fiving themselves over this nugget of brilliance.

Over and above the choice of celebrity here, does anybody else see the inherent weakness of trying to build a brand on the premise of Cold? If you were to count the folks who have extra fridges in their garages, you'd see there are approximately 1.6 refrigerators for every man, woman and child in America. In other words, any swill including the distinctively-urine-y Matt's Utica Club from upstate NY, can be made super cold.

And does anybody on God's Green Earth, including the Rocky Mountain states, believe Compton's own Ice Cube drinks Coor's Lite? Maybe I've succumb to media stereotypes, but I picture Mr. Cube drinking a 40 oz. malt liquor with a little more kick to it. Or a beer with any kick to it.

Let's face it there's more alcohol in a bottle of room deodorizer than in the Silver Bullet. You can buy Coor's Lite on a Sunday morning in Provo, Utah. People drink Coor's Lite when they're drunk at a party and they need to sober up before leaving.

Thankfully I've just been hired to write some intelligent copy for a European based beer company that appreciates wit and a snarky sense of humor. But I'm so mad about this misuse of a celebrity and Ice Cube's subsequent selling out, I've got a good mind to trash every single one of my N.W. A. records.

Oh wait.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

You luv me long time


Two milestones were reached recently. Our nation's debt ceiling hit 14 trillion dollars. And roundseventeen now has more than 50,000 hits.

I'll leave the former to the economists and my grandchildren. But with regards to the latter,
50,000 Hits !!! Now granted, 20,000 of those hits are me checking the stats or fixing the numerous typos that pop up with far too much regularity.

But 50,000 hits? Maybe I should start charging a subscription fee?

You may be wondering why I chose the above photo for this entry. I simply entered 50,000 into the Google image search and was immediately drawn to some weird Asian Android app site. No doubt Congressman Weiner has this uploaded this on his smartphone.

I know from past experience that pictures like the one above always result in increased traffic. I know it's a cheap tease, but you seem to be the kind of people that like cheap teases. It's all about meeting the demands of my market.

Speaking of which (as I have done on many occasions in the past), it's time to roll out a new tagline. And because you are so much a part of what this blog is all about, I thought it would interesting to make this a participatory activity.

Below you'll find three new taglines. The one that garners the most votes will remain until we pass another milestone or it's a slow news day and I just need another topic to write about.

A. Roundseventeen. No shoes, no shirt, no snark.
B. Roundseventeen. Irrelevant, and built to stay that way.
C. Roundseventeen. Now with 23% more cynicism.
D. Roundseventeen. ___ ___ _ ___ _____ ____ __ _ ________.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Time Flies


At the risk of sounding overly nostalgic and perhaps Andy Rooneyish (can his name be used as an adjective?), today's post is about a stopwatch.

But not just any stopwatch. It's a replica of a Swiss-made, hand-wound Minerva. The fact that it cost less than $15 is of no import to me. How I got the watch is a different story.

Let's go back to August 15, 1990. It was my first day at Chiat/Day advertising. I'm not sure of the date. Or even the month. I'm only assuming it was in the dead of summer because I do remember I was sweating bullets. I'm pretty sure I drove home at lunchtime to change into a different, drier shirt.

I had every right to be intimidated.

Chiat/Day was not only the premier ad agency on the West Coast, they were the most creative agency on the planet. Doing brave, ballsy work that could not be ignored. Every writer and art director there had a shelf full of awards. And a matching well-earned cocky attitude to boot. I was so far out of my league I didn't even know it.

Before my day officially began I met Jay Chiat, in the men's room of all places. We exchanged pleasantries and shook hands (after we had concluded our business). I  never did get to tell him that we were both from the Bronx, both sons of Russian immigrants and that we both worked in recruitment advertising.

Afterwards, I was ushered to the back of the warehouse (now the headquarters for Digital Domain) and shown my desk. And there right next to my new employee handbook was the stopwatch you see pictured above. You probably can't see it because of my photographic skills, but the back of the watch is engraved: CHIAT/DAY.

The stopwatch was a not-so-subtle way of reminding me that 30 second TV commercials better be 30 seconds and not a hair longer. And that 60 second radio spots better be 60 seconds, no more, no less.

There was a premium placed on precision. It was Chiat's way of saying that words and images were to be chosen carefully. And used efficiently. That precision is often the difference between a good ad and a great one.

The stopwatch also served as a tangible reminder that I had been welcomed into an elite club and that in order to succeed I had better manage my time well. They never cared if I took two hour lunches or worked out next door at Gold's Gym or even rented a bike and took a stroll down the Venice bike path. They didn't care if I came in at 11. Or napped under my desk. The only thing that mattered was
The Work.

Of course, I, nor anybody else, took advantage of those liberties. We were too scared. Particularly when we had to show the work to Lee Clow. And later, Lee as well as Bob Kuperman.

Fear, it turns out, is an excellent motivator. We were afraid our next assignment would be our last. We were afraid that what we were presenting would be laughed at. Not because it was funny, but for every other reason. We were afraid that given one more week, one more day or one more hour, we could have made the work better.

I carry this stopwatch wherever I go. Have been doing so for the past 21 years.
With apologies to Chiat and their client Visa, and in the vernacular of Mastercard...

Cheap knock-off stopwatch : $13.99.
Career lessons learned: Priceless.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

When Pigs Fly


I don't normally do this --that is repost cool or unusual stuff others have posted on Facebook --as I consider that lazy and less than you've come to expect here at roundseventeen. But I'll be honest and painfully transparent, last week's swimming marathon has thrown my schedule for a bit of loop and left me woefully behind in my writing.

So today I'd like to share a vintage video (courtesy of fellow freelance copywriter, Chris Pouy) that would surely raise some eyebrows at the Moscow PETA Headquarters.



There's so much I enjoy about this little film it's hard to know where to start.

I love that they anesthetized the pig before his space adventure.
I love that they strapped a seat belt across his barrel chest for safety.
And I love the "scientician" at the of the film writing down his important findings.

Just one thing comrades, pigs don't belong in space.
They belong on a toasted sourdough sandwich, wedged between fresh cut tomatoes and crisp romaine lettuce.
Mmmmm, bacon.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Virginity Checks

 

I make no secret about my Pro-Zionist feelings. I like to think that even if I weren't an MOT I would still see the abundant legitimacy of the Jewish Homeland. 

What's interesting is that the Arab countries that call for Israel to abide by UN Resolution 242 are the same nation's that choose to ignore the UN's original mandate for the original creation and recognition in 1948.

Which makes it all the more ridiculous when Arab dictatorships conveniently blame Israel for any trouble that ails them. When turmoil does arise, as it is now during the "Arab Spring", it is always a fabrication of  crafty Mossad agents. Or it's always the Jewish media trying to make Arabs look bad in the eyes of the world.

This is hardly an area in which they need any assistance.

Consider the headlines of the day. In an effort to maintain a grip on power, Moamar Quadaffi has unleashed the might of the Libyan army on his own citizens. Syrian President Assad has committed mass murder on hundreds of residents in Daraa. And last week it was reported on CNN that Egyptian generals had conducted "virginity checks" on women who had been seen in Tahrir Square.

I can't for the life of me understand why it would be important to the military that some members of the crowd be confirmed virgins. The morality police should be more concerned about the morality of their own actions. If you ask me, all this pent up sexual repression is the source of this monumental regional discontent. And why it's not a good place to be a goat.

Can you imagine if this had happened in France or Italy or some other first world country governed by civilized people? 

And yet hardly a peep was raised in the court of world opinion. Or even the Arab league. Perhaps it's because we expect so little in the way of civility from the countries of the Middle East. Perhaps we've been desensitived by the beheadings, the stonings and the suicide bombings.

I think it's time we break out the DNA sampling kits and begin counting chromosomes. 
I think it's time we start doing "humanity-checks."




Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Regrets, I've had a few



There's a meme floating around Facebook to the effect of the Top 5 Regrets People Make on their Deathbed. It's written by a hospice nurse and it has all the standard cliches you might expect: I wish I were true to myself, I wish I didn't work so hard, I wish I let myself be happier, blah, blah, blah.

I'm sure when I'm looking at my last few breaths of oxygen I'll make a quick inventory of my top 5 regrets. But as you might expect they won't have any resemblance to the boilerplate version seen on Facebook.

1. I wish I'd bought a house on a mountaintop. As I've made clear on previous posts, people are hell. The only thing worse than other people are other people who choose to live near me. Neighbors. Not all neighbors, after all some of my neighbors actually read this blog. Just the ones who operate power equipment at odd hours of the night. Or neighbors who decide to turn their backyards into outdoor movie theaters. If I had purchased a house high above the bluffs of Malibu, I wouldn't have to deal with any of the accoutrement that comes with city living. My only concern would have been keeping the coyotes from snatching up one of my daughters from the backyard.

2. I wish I had taken up a musical instrument. Lately I've been watching David Simon's Treme on HBO. If you haven't seen it, you should. The narrative of New Orlean's is tied to the making of music. Blues, funk, bounce, jazz, it's all there. And every time I watch the show I wish I had been blessed with the ability to make music. You might think it's never too late to start taking lessons, but indeed it is. I would never be able to master an instrument as I have all the rhythm and coordination of a drunk epileptic stepping off the Tilt-A-Whirl.

3. I wish I had discovered Bosley Hair Treatment for Men earlier. I knew, from a very early age, that I was going to be bald like my father and his father. So when my hair started thinning, I should have beelined it to the nearest pharmacy for some minoxidol. Or invested in hair plugs. Or any number of expensive treatments to maintain my fading hirsuteness. I've been to the websites. And I've seen men who now "run, swim and ride horses with complete confidence." Sadly, I will not be one of those men. I've been buzzcutting my hair for close to ten years now. Friends, family, co-workers know me as a bald man. I think if I were to visit Bosley on a Friday afternoon and come into to work Monday morning with a full head of wavy locks, it would raise some suspicion.

4. I wish I had learned about the beauty of rechargable batteries.


About a year ago I bought one of these rechargeable battery thingamajigs. Yes it was pricey. But considering the number of devices in my house including remote controls, wireless keyboards, mice, flashlights, and ear hair clippers, it has paid for itself many times over. Now when batteries run out I simply swap them out with the live ones in the recharger. It's almost as if I'm saying, "screw you behemoth battery company and your overpriced batteries." Of course now my electricity bills are through the roof. I might have to rethink this one.

5. I regret that I never worked hard enough. This may seem counter-intuitive but it's not. Yes, I've achieved a modicum of success in my chosen field. And no one would ever accuse me of having a poor work ethic or not delivering. But the truth is, it has all come a little too easily. You get a strategy to advertise some juicy burgers and the next thing you know you're sitting in a room with an art director saying something like, "juicy, loosy, goosy." And from that some stupid commercial is born.

The truth is, I could have worked harder. And should have worked harder. Not at advertising. Or even writing smart ass books, movies and tv shows. I should've worked harder in high school. And in college. I should have gone to post graduate school and become a doctor. Or an engineer. Or a lawyer. I should have done something more useful with my life. More useful and more lucrative.

At least something more lucrative than publishing a blog.

Monday, June 6, 2011

D Day


It's D-Day. 67 years since the Allied army hit the beaches in Normandy. And a fitting day for me to be hitting the beach in Cueta, Morocco. Figuratively, of course.

7 days and 35 sponsors ago I set out from Spain to swim the 12+ miles across the Strait of Gibraltar and set foot in Africa. And today, 1/2 vial of Diclofenac later, I can proudly step out of the water and say Mission Accomplished.

I want to thank everybody who has participated in this little effort and commend you on your support. Together you have pledged more than $965 dollars. Rather than collecting all the money and sending off one check, I'm now asking that you visit http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/ and fulfill your obligation on their website.

The wounded warrior project is the same foundation used by the vets who swam the Gibraltar channel in the film SWIM.


You might have noticed that I have not gotten on a soapbox and talked about the worthiness of this cause. Frankly, it's not a topic I feel qualified to talk about. The pain and suffering our disabled vets go through on a daily is far too deep for any of us to comprehend. I would never be able to find the words to do it justice.

After all, the closest I ever got to being in the military was the Boy Scouts. And I wasn't very good at that. I am simply humbled by the sacrifices these young men and women make. The $1200 raised here is just a small, small way of saying thank you.

Of course, now that the mission is now complete I can come clean and admit there were other agendas at play.

I often say swimming is a perfect fat guy sport. And I wanted to see just how hard I could push this fat guy body of mine. Did you know that less 2% of all Americans can swim 18 consecutive lengths of a pool or 1/4 mile? And far fewer would still be left breathing after 100 consecutive lengths.

But over and above that I wanted to demonstrate to my daughters, the joy of giving and the power of doing. I'm always surprised which life lessons actually stick with them. I'm hoping this will be one. With any luck, they'll both enroll in the Marines, live at nearby Camp Pendleten and let Uncle Sam treat them to a free ride for college.

Then Deb and I can spend the 529 funds and rent an oceanfront villa in Morocco.



Friday, June 3, 2011

The Bronx Cheer


10:45 PM. June 2, 2011


Swimming update with regards to my Swim to Africa (see May 26th entry for details). I took today off, because the thought of more chlorinated water in my mouth began to make me nauseous. And because my arms and shoulders are sore as hell. Seven miles in three days will have that effect. Frankly, I'm surprised I can muster up the strength to hit the keyboard.


I've written before about the amazing algorithms that fuel the Internet and how my computer has come to know me better than I know myself. The amazing folks at Hertz are no exception.

I just noticed this banner ad streaming across the top of my Scrabble game.

It's flabbergasting how a company that rents cars also has a prescient understanding of overly flatulent tendencies. I'm a little disappointed however that they hedged their bet and chose to frame the statement in the form of a question.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Double Double Dip


June 1, 2011. 10:42 PM. 


Just completed another mile and quarter tonight. Plus the mile and a quarter I swam at lunchtime. Bringing me to 7 completed miles in the span of three days. Not bad for a guy pushing 43 years old. For more details on my Swim to Africa, please see the blog entry of May 26th. Sadly, we've only added one new sponsor today. And frankly I find that disheartening. But not half as disheartening as this...


There was bad news on the economy today and many economists now feel the housing market is slipping into a classic double dip. If this continues my kids will be going to a vocational college and I'll be spending my sunset years in a dirty dorm room fighting over the remote control with three old Jews named Morty, Irv and Abe.

As if that weren't enough, I was reading the Los Angeles Times the other day and discovered that my house is worth considerably less than I had thought. Oh sure we've added the tankless water heater, installed Pella Windows and put in premium hardwood flooring guaranteed to withstand a nuclear attack, but unless I'm able to persuade the Postmaster General to make some fundamental changes it appears we are S.O.L.

You see my house is "ethnically undesirable." Here's why:


According to Chinese superstition, the number 4 sounds like the Mandarin word for Death. Subsequently, Chinese people and indeed most Asians from the subcontinent, tend to avoid purchasing houses with the number 4 in the address.

Lucky me, my address has two of them.

This means when my wife and I are ready to sell the house and feather our retirement nest with the proceeds, a significant constituency will be unwilling to cross our front doorstep. Or they will be inclined to lower the asking price by a good 25%. 

The article in the Times did not expound on the numbers '1' and '6', but if my suspicions are correct I think they are Mandarin for "you can't retire until you're 90 years old" and "don't even think about Scratch-Off Tickets."

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Marrakesh Express


10:31 PM. Tuesday May 31, 2011.


Swam 2.5 miles today, one and a half at lunchtime and another just about ten minutes ago. Shoulders are a little sore, but I am in high spirits and confident I can swim the distance. To date I have about 35 sponsors, many pledging more than a buck a mile and bringing the pledge total to near $600 for our disabled veterans. Later in the week I will provide a website that will accept the donations. Until then, please tell friends and get them on board. Thanks.


As I mentioned, swimming can be extremely boring. But it allows the mind to wander, and there's no better friend to the wandering mind than the Internet. Yesterday while I was hunting down images for my chart about not being able to read charts I stumbled onto something that I never would have found, had I not embarked on this little adventure.

Meet Mr. Radhakant Bajpai, the current Guinness Book of World Record Holder for having the longest ear hair.


Said to be a symbol of good luck and prosperity, Mr. Bajpai has resisted the urge to manscape since he was 18 years old. He maintains the extraordinary ear hair with a special herbal shampoo and has become quite the celebrity in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

I know you want to see a better picture of him. And I'm not about to disappoint my readers. Here he is in his younger disco-dancing days...


"But you look so much different than your picture on eHarmony."




"Sir,  I'm afraid you're going to have to leave Toon Town. No, it has nothing to do with your hat."




"For the last time Raji, I don't want a little off the side."



Friends and family think I'm crazy for undertaking this little swimming expedition. That's hardly crazy, And I think Radhakant would agree. But I do have  a few errant eyebrows (courtesy of my Russian lineage), that left unattended for the next 20-25 years, could grow to monumental Bajpia-like proportion. 

Perhaps I'll start looking online for herbal eyebrow shampoo?